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Film / A Bullet for the General

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A Bullet for the General aka El Chuncho, quién sabe? is a Spaghetti Western from 1966, directed by Damiano Damiani.

A gang of bandits led by El Chuncho rob a train, and one of the passengers, a young American called Tate, ends up joining the gang. Chuncho nicknames him Niño, and they gradually become friends.Chuncho intends to sell the guns they acquired through the robbery to a revolutionary Mexican general, and Tate helps the gang plan and carry out several raids to get more guns. Despite his original mercenary motives Chuncho becomes more and more invested in helping the villagers fight their oppressors, but it becomes apparent that the manipulative Tate had his own reasons for joining the gang - and aiding the revolutionaries wasn't one of them.

The cast includes Gian Maria Volontè (who played two different villains, Ramon Rojo in A Fistful of Dollars and El Indio in For a Few Dollars More), Klaus Kinski, and Lou Castel.

This film provides examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Chuncho is a murderous, violent rascal, and he's our main character.
  • Bandito: Chuncho is one of the key characters to have redefined the archetype as a complex, sympathetic figure as opposed to merely a malicious one.
  • Batman Gambit: How Tate gets the gang to leave San Miguel.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Chuncho is this to a tee.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Tate. Chuncho is the real protagonist.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Santo dies in his brother's arms.
  • Emotional Bruiser: Chuncho. He's rough and rowdy, and very cheerful and friendly on a good day, but incredibly sensitive and notably bursts out sobbing over General Elias' death
  • Evil All Along: Tate, also known as Niño.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Made very clear with the final scene. Tate cannot comprehend why Chuncho doesn't accept Tate's friendship and his share of the reward that Tate obtained for killing the General, and asks multiple times: "Why?" when Chuncho shoots him; Chuncho himself cannot explain exactly why he refuses all that money and why he decides to avenge who was trying to execute him, replying only: "Quien sabe? (Who knows?)"
  • Faux Affably Evil: At the start, Chuncho acts chipper while his men are slaughtering everyone on the train.
  • Foe Romance Subtext/ Homoerotic Subtext: A dark and violent example between Tate and Chuncho. Both of them favour guns and money over women; Chuncho completely ignores his human prize once he hears news of a machine gun, which is foreign, like Tate. Film scholar Alex Cox describes the film as being a love affair between Tate and Chuncho.
  • Heroic BSoD: Chuncho is first devastated to find that first the villagers he'd been trying to train in San Miguel had all been killed in an attack, having been lured away by Tate; then when he gets the brother he loves, Santo, to execute him, he witnesses his brother die at Tate's hands; and finally, learning the General is dead, Chuncho hides his face away, sobbing.
    • Adelita also goes through one when Pepito is killed.
  • Ironic Nickname: Tate's nickname Niño.
  • Large Ham: Chuncho, whose character can be compared to an early Toshiro Mifune role.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: When bandits raid the mansion of the corrupt town mayor, the husband, Felipe, cowers and has to be escorted by a servant to the kitchen, while the wife, Rosario, attempts to get a gun to try and fend off the bandits, and faces them in person.
  • Marked Bullet: The golden one Chuncho finds in Tate's valise. It's intended for the revolutionary General Elías, whom Tate's been hired to kill.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: By the end, the only one left of Chuncho's gang left alive is Adelita, who simply leaves.
  • New Meat: How the gang initially think of Niño/Tate.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Chuncho abandons San Miguel after he hears that the valuable machine gun has been stolen, and instead of returning it, decides to take it over to General Elias. Abandoning San Miguel gets all of the inhabitants except for Santo slaughtered in battle, and taking it to Elias allows Tate to assassinate the revolutionary leader.
  • The Quiet One: Tate.
  • Rags to Riches: Chuncho tries this for a while in the third act. He doesn't like it and at the end tears up his clothes to rejoin the revolution.
  • Rape as Backstory: When she was 15, Adelita had this happen to her by "some other Don Felipe".
  • Rebel Leader: General Elías.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Chuncho tries to enforce this. But Tate saves him anyway, which brings Chuncho to keep living with his guilt.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Scrappy, sensitive Chuncho, and cold, calculating Tate.
  • Religious Bruiser: El Santo, Chuncho's obsessively religious brother.
    Santo: Christ died between two thieves. His place was always with the poor and downtrodden.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: In the end Chuncho rejects both Tate's money and his friendship. Instead he kills him, both for leading him to betray the cause and for killing Santo.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Adelita deserts Chuncho and Tate after the other remaining gang members have been killed in an ambush.
  • Shaped Like Itself: The exchange between Chuncho and Don Felipe, whom Chuncho forced to drive him and the villagers in an automobile.
    Chuncho: What is that thing?
    Felipe: It's a gear shift.
    Chuncho: What's it for?
    Felipe: For shifting gears.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Adelita is the only woman in Chuncho's bandit gang, and the only major female character in the film.
  • South of the Border
  • Spaghetti Western: Damiano Damiani doesn't describe it as Western, being set South of the Border. Yet many elements such as the desert setting, the horses and having Mexican bandits as characters make it qualify.
  • Spicy Latina: Adelita
  • Strawman Political: Arguably the point of the movie.
  • Subverted Trope: The film intends to shake up the "gringo and his Mexican criminal buddy" relationship that was just being established in Spaghetti Westerns. Though Chuncho is a murderer, he is redeemed by the needs of the people. And though Tate is at first an observer, he turns out to be using Chuncho to get to the general because he's an assassin against the revolution.
  • Suicide by Cop: In a sense, Chuncho, almost. When he finds that the villagers of San Miguel were all massacred, he offers himself to be executed as punishment for abandoning his duty. He has his brother shoot him, but it's averted when Tate saves him, murdering Santo.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Subverted. Chuncho didn't have much time or patience to train the villagers of San Miguel and they're all slaughtered in his absence.
  • Tsundere: Adelita is spiteful and demanding towards her boyfriend Pepito, yet it's revealed that she deeply cares about him and is absolutely devastated when he dies in a gunfight.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Tate slaps the wealthy landowner's wife Rosario to make her stop yelling.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Chuncho and his men, meanwhile, don't hit Rosario and they treat Adelita fairly well.
  • Villainous Valour: Lieutenant Alvaro Ferrera at the beginning of the movie, bravely trying to rescue the captain from Chuncho and his gang, only to be shot down by Chuncho. Then again, this is a world of Black-and-Grey Morality, so it depends on who's more heroic, the lieutenant or Chuncho.
  • You Killed My Brother: Tate kills Chuncho's brother to save Chuncho, even if Chuncho himself would have preferred to be execute by his brother.