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The Villain, or Cactus Jack as it's also known, sounds like a Western. Which it is. It also sounds like it's about an intimidating, big bad villain who terrorizes the land, and who everyone is out to stop. That could hardly be further from the truth.
What's the movie really about?
It starts off with comedic antics in a Wild West town, that at times feel like I'm watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon with real people. There's orchestrated comedic music that plays at key moments, to punctuate jokes. After some basic setup of the "plot", eventually we get to where the movie's gonna spend well over half its running time: on the trail. A man with the cartoonish name of Handsome Stranger is tasked with escorting the similarly cartoonishly named Charming Jones across a desert. Our titular Villain, Cactus Jack, along with his seemingly sentient horse, Whiskey, is after them. To make sure he does it right, he brought with him an instruction manual on how to be a bad guy.
Cactus Jack is basically the focus on the movie. And that man is pretty much Wile E. Coyote in human form.
He spends much of the movie concocting simple cartoon plots to kill the heroes. He tries to roll a boulder down a hill, but it misfires and runs over him instead. He uses black paint to paint a tunnel onto the side of a mountain in the hopes of getting them to crash into it, only for them to go right through, while he chases after them... and crashes into it himself. He puts glue on the train tracks, only for them to walk right over it. And of course, when he stomps on the glue in anger, it's suddenly effective, right as a train is coming...
The whole thing looks really fake; for example, when Cactus Jack is crushed by his own boulder, you can tell it's clearly papiermâché, with the wireframe easily visible! Jack getting run over by the train is done with cutaways - we see the train coming, we see his boots on the ground, then we see him being pushed along by the train as it continues down the track. Whiskey, the horse, nodding its head "yes" also looks like the filmmakers clearly somehow got a real horse to bob its head up and down randomly.
The corniness is a huge part of the charm. I'll be honest - I laughed many times at the movie, including at how fake the practical effects looked. No CGI here, folks! Instead, they used what they could, and did their best to make it look silly. Honestly, if the effects were better, I probably wouldn't have laughed so much!
The ending is totally Looney Tunes, so to speak, and without giving it away, I'll just say that it makes it clear that the creators knew exactly what kind of movie they were making.
I had a blast with this movie. Yes, it was dumb, but that was a big part of the fun! If you're in the mood for a light-hearted, silly comedy, or if you're curious how well Looney Tunes antics could work with real actors and low-budget practical effects, then check this one out sometime.
This one was a childhood favourite, even though I was a tad too young to understand what was going on with Charming Jones.
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