By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: A town on edge.
Bubber Reaves (Robert Redford) has escaped from prison and looks to return to the small Texas town where he grew up in. It is there that his wife Anna (Jane Fonda) resides, but she is now having an affair with Jason (James Fox) who is the son of the town’s influential millionaire Val (E.G. Marshall). Deep-seated tensions that had long remained dormant eventually rise and boil over. The sheriff (Marlon Brando), who is not particularly popular with the locals, wants to bring Bubber back alive, but a certain group of men have other ideas and are willing to physically and violently stop the sheriff if they have to in order to get their way.
The film was notorious in its day for its behind-the-scenes discord that was almost as entertaining as the conflicts onscreen. Producer Sam Spiegal gave director Arthur Penn no authority over the final cut and screenwriters Horton Foote and Lillian Hellman who along with Penn where in constant disagreements over the story angles and character focus. Yet with all that going on the final product is still slick enough to remain entertaining and compelling.
Much of this can be attributed to the talented supporting cast. Janice Rule is spicy as the haughty husband stealer and Robert Duvall is memorable in an atypical role as a timid man who avoids all confrontation even when his wife (Martha Hyer) openly makes out with another man while right in front of him. Miriam Hopkins, in her second-to-last film appearance, leaves a strong impression as well playing Bubber’s elderly, but still feisty mother.
On the other end there is Fonda who is wasted in a small role that gives her little to do. Redford, with his All-American good looks is miscast and fails to reflect the grittiness of the rest of the characters. Brando’s presence is also a detriment as his patented moodiness becomes off-putting instead being the portal to the character’s ‘inner angst’ as it’s intended although the scene where he gets beaten to a pulp and then walks all bloodied out in front of the other townspeople who stare at him with indifference is an impactful moment.
The ending culminates with an explosive finale inside a junkyard, but the majority of the film lacks any action. It’s more of a soap opera than a chase, which makes the title misleading and even disappointing to those that may come into it expecting an action flick, which it isn’t. The setting is also supposed to take place in Texas and even though certain shots do resemble the Lone Star landscape it was actually all filmed inside the borders of California.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: February 17, 1966
Runtime: 2Hours 15Minutes
Director: Arthur Penn
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video