Based on Carlos Fuentes’ novel Gringo Viejo, the complex psychological tableau makes it easy to see why Jane Fonda plopped herself in the plum role of 40-ish spinster on the run Harriet Winslow. She is swept up by accident in the Mexican Revolution and swept off her feet by a charismatic general in Pancho Villa’s popular front.
A rakish Jimmy Smits as Gen. Arroyo is superbly cast. He conveys the cocksure yet sensitive machismo and motivations of his character’s torment between the revolution he lives and the woman he loves.
As the embittered, sardonic journalist Ambrose Bierce, Gregory Peck has found a role that suits him to a T. He portrays the world-weary Bierce with relish and wit.
The paternalistic figure in a nebulous love triangle with Fonda and Smits, Peck exudes a sympathetic mien despite his crusty exterior. His best moments come long before the denouement, and the film’s wittiest lines are his alone.