The Honkers (1972)

honkers 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rodeo star is selfish.

Lew Lathrop (James Coburn) is an aging rodeo star who returns to his hometown after an extended absence, which stirs up resentment and trouble wherever he goes. His wife Linda (Lois Nettleton) still has feelings for him despite her anger at him leaving her and never being able to stay faithful. It seems that the only true friend that he has and one that remains loyal to him even through his many shortcomings is rodeo clown Clete (Slim Pickens), but even this gets put to the test when Lew decides to jeopardize is family life once again when he decides to go after local hottie Deborah (Anne Archer) a young woman just past the age of consent who enjoys flirting with older men and shows no reluctance in having her way with them.

The film was directed by actor Steve Ihnat who never saw the final product put on the big screen as he died from a sudden heart attack at the young age of 37 five days before the film’s release. Much like with Junior Bonner and JW Coop, which came out at the same time, this has an authentic feel with the necessary level of grittiness and good rodeo footage,  but the scenes go on too long and the pace is too laid back. One shot has Coburn walking down the city sidewalk for a full several minutes with nothing else happening. Extended shots of a downtown parade and broncos bucking off cowboys in the rodeo ring are all nice, but fail to propel the plot, which seems pretty thin anyways and almost makes this come off like a documentary than a feature film.

Coburn is his usual engaging self, but seems genuinely uncomfortable getting on the broncos and even a bit out-of-place in the role. Pickens is outstanding in support it what may be the best film role of his career. Usually, especially with his country accent, he would get subjugated to hillbilly parts, but here he gets to show his dramatic side by playing a rodeo clown, which is what he did for many years in real-life before becoming an actor. Archer, in only her second film role is quite seductive and possibly at her most beautiful though the many shots showing her wearing headbands start to make her resemble Pocahontas.

Filmed entirely on-location in Carlsbad, New Mexico director Ihnat manages to take full advantage of the rustic western landscape and brilliant blue sky of the region, which is a major plus. The ending has a nice surreal quality and the story does manage to pick up a bit during the second half, but it still could’ve been better trimmed and more compact.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 17, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Steve Ihnat

Studio: United Artists

Available: None at this time.

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