After 18 years in jail, Juan Sáyago returns to his small Colombian home town. The proud sons of the man he had killed thirst for his blood, but Juan won't run, nor will he take up the gun again. Gabriel García Márquez's first original screenplay, though set in contemporary Colombia, is first and foremost a Western. Besides the many pleasures to be had from the reworking of the genre's classical conventions, Márquez and Triana also construct a bleak, caustic critique of machismo and its absurd codes of honour. Vengeance is vain, bloodlust psychosis; amid superstition and self-sacrificing ritual, every man of violence is a loser. While occasionally brutal and prone to overstatement, the film retains a raw, unsentimental power, at once formally elegant and intelligent, thanks partly to Angarita's Juan, a morose Donald Sutherland lookalike exuding taciturn dignity. Simple, but oddly effective and very watchable.
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