Last Night at the Alamo (Eagle Pennell / U.S., 1983):

Lone Star gentrification, buckaroo limbo. Peckinpah is the point of departure, Junior Bonner mainly, a rugged way of life debunked and mourned from dusk till dawn. The Alamo is a dilapidated tavern tucked away between Houston skyscrapers, with one evening left before its appointment with a wrecking ball. Swinging doors and jukebox arcades adorn the place, pool tables and diagonal counters and mounted antlers in packed, roughhewn deep-focus compositions, a barfly slumped under his Confederate cap in a sidelong Weegee detail. The clientele is comprised of choleric working-class locals locked in macho vaudeville routines—the shrimpy loafer (Steven Mitilla) spoiling for a brawl, the henpecked beardo (Lou Perryman) with his ear glued to the payphone—and the women who see right through them. ("If they didn’t have all the pussy, there’d be a bounty on their heads.") In wanders the Cowboy (Sonny Carl Davis), the genial braggart who fancies himself a Western star in between chug-a-lug tequila rounds. But frontier lure avails the windbag no more, a call from Hollywood is an O’Neill pipe dream mercilessly squashed. "Ever get the feeling the Cowboy is full of shit?" Eagle Pennell’s regional snapshot is a full-on dissection of the Reagan era's deluded swagger, lifting the ten-gallon Stetson for the bald pate underneath. The characters’ profane grousing is the whirlwind patter of impotence, with Kim Henkel’s dialogue suggesting the salty frenzies of his Texas Chain Saw Massacre script. Strutting bulls laid bare as anxious calves, the forlorn drunkard making a stand with rifle in hand, "it’s about time something got started around here." A clear influence on Linklater’s panoramas, a wry view of American bluster as a saloon of illusions nearing closing time. With J. Michael Hammond, Tina-Bess Hubbard, Henry Wideman, and George Pheneger. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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