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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Fred Schepisi
Artisan Entertainment 1982 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Just when we thought Westerns were extinct, along comes this gritty, mongrel saga that ought to satisfy all sagebrush devotees. Willie Nelson is Barbarosa, a gringo on the run for 30 years from sons sent to kill him by his wife's stern and vengeful father (Gilbert Roland). The vagabond thief has shot them all down and become a legendary figure. In the wilderness where he has learned to survive, we meet Karl (Gary Busey), a farm boy who accidentally killed his brother-in-law and is now being tracked by his cousins. Barbarosa takes the gawky kid under his wing.
Australian filmmaker Fred Schepisi (The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, The Devil's Playground) makes his American debut with this idiosyncratic story about the strange dynamics of family feuds and the bizarre unfolding of legends in the nineteenth century West. The friendship between Willie Nelson and Gary Busey is intricately developed, and their struggle to stay alive is compellingly presented against the awesome scenery of Texas and Mexico's mountains and deserts. This is a rough-and-tumble movie with an involving human dimension that lingers even after the dust has settled on the surprising finale.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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