The Gauntlet (1977)

the gauntlet

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Alcoholic cop escorts hooker.

Ben Shockley (Clint Eastwood) is a down-and-out cop and borderline alcoholic who’s given the assignment of escorting a hooker named Gus Mally (Sandra Locke) from a prison in Phoenix to a trial in Las Vegas where she will be a key witness. Ben is initially told that it’s a ‘nothing witness to a nothing trial’, but finds that to be anything but the truth as the two are shot at and chased by both the mob and his fellow policeman convincing him that he’s been set-up and making him determined to ‘even the score’.

This film overall is great fun and has enough well-choreographed action sequences to be entertaining for just about anyone who watches it. The story also manages to have some intrigue and a certain symbolic message. The on-location shooting done in and around Phoenix gives it an added flair particularly the long shots of the dessert landscape.

The film is best known for its climatic sequence involving Eastwood and Locke riding in a bus that travels slowly down the main streets of Phoenix while being shot at by hundreds of cops lining the sidewalk that ultimately puts thousands of holes into the vehicle. As a visual this is exciting and memorable, but I still kept wondering why the cops didn’t simply aim at the bus’s tires, which would’ve disabled the vehicle instantly and they would not have had to bother shooting up the rest of it.

Another action segment in which Eastwood and Locke are riding on a motorcycle while being chased and shot at by men in a helicopter brought up some similar issues. Again the segment itself is exciting and surprisingly prolonged although it would’ve done better without the bouncy jazz score being played over it. Either way the helicopter begins to attack Eastwood while he is standing at an outdoor phone booth. He then runs inside to an indoor food market where the Locke character already is, but instead of staying there where they are shielded he instead leads her out of the building and onto the motorbike where it would be more dangerous because it makes them an open and vulnerable target.

I also wasn’t too crazy about Locke’s performance or her character. For one thing Locke approaches the part in too much of a one-dimensional way. A hardened, snarky prostitute may be realistic, but hardly interesting or appealing and the character would’ve been more fun had their being some sort of unique or funny trait about her instead of leaning so heavily towards the stereotype.

The other supporting characters though are great. Pat Hingle is excellent as Ben’s nervous, hyper friend who finds himself unwittingly in the middle of the fracas. I also enjoyed William Prince playing an extension of the corrupt, jaded corporate-like character that he did in Network. Bill McKinney is also good as a hick cop who has an interesting ‘conversation’ with Locke about her ‘profession’.

If you’re looking for a bubblegum, action-packed escapism then this film should do the trick and still holds up well today even when compared to modern-day action flicks.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated R

Director: Clint Eastwood

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

One response to “The Gauntlet (1977)

  1. Joseph Kearny

    Just as the poster suggests the whole world appears to be shooting at these 2 turning everything into Swiss cheese. A politician masturbated on a hooker’s back and now she’s going to testify.

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