“The Bagman Died First” is an example of what I call a Neo-Western, or a western, with all the themes and trappings, set in the modern day. So while I consider it a fairly pure distillation of “Mike Johnson” there were a lot of cinematic influences that got us there, and these are just a couple.
1. Reservoir Dogs (1992) directed by Quentin Tarantino.
Tarantino, despite and sometimes because of his faults, is a huge influence on me. His writing style and visual choices, his use of homage (or rip-offs), and his subversion of genre are all things that I aspire to do as well. Specifically, though, both Reservoir Dogs and Bagman take place, primarily, in a single location with tough bad guys talking tough. And the black suits with bright red blood are especially and specifically similar.
2. Breaking Bad (2008-2013) created by Vince Gilligan.
Breaking Bad and its descent into the underworld of drugs and violence was almost a how-to guide on how to fashion criminal relationships. Drug deals in wide open, yet remote places? Check. Also, the character of Amigo (played by Rodrigo Carballo) was originally named Filiberto Salamanca. And the character played by Edwin Garcia is named Héctor. Héctor Salamanca is a character in Breaking Bad played by Mark Margolis.
3. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) directed by Sergio Leone.
Arguably the gold standard by which westerns are judged, OUaTitW is an influence on everyone. And if it isn’t, it should be. Our color pallet and framing choices were direct homages (rip-offs) of this film. Also not surprising is the pre-title card “Once Upon a Time... In the Midwest” is also dedicated to this film.
4. The Searchers (1956) directed by John Ford.
There is one big, specific influence that this film casts, other than being one of the best westerns ever made, as well as one of the most poignant treatise on race relations of that era. The shot pictured of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) framed in the doorway, forever outside and left behind by the world as it moves on. Our primary setup mimics this shot, framing Amigo in the doorway of his car, with Cabron (Andrew Prescott) outside and separated from him. This highlights the differences in the two of them and it isn’t until they begin to see eye to eye that we see them in a different light (pun very much intended).
5. No Country for Old Men (2007) directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
This is the film that people most tell me Bagman reminds them of, and that is no accident. The entire concept came from a rewatch of the Coen Bros masterpiece, wondering what had happened in between the time that the drug deal went wrong and Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) showed up. There are many more things I homaged (ripped-off); modern setting, location choices, etc. But the main thing is the concept itself, and I therefore owe it the largest debt.
So there you have it, the five biggest influences on “The Bagman Died First”. There are many more, of course. For those of you who have seen it: What did you see? What did I miss? And for those of you who haven’t, check back in on this post next week after you do and let me know.