Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

Bronco Billy (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rich lady and cowboy.

Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) is an aging modern-day cowboy who runs a traveling wild west show that is no longer attracting customers and making it hard for him to pay his employees. While at a gas station he meets Antoinette (Sondra Locke) a rich heiress with a haughty attitude who has just gotten dumped by her husband (Geoffrey Lewis) who also absconded with all of her money. Billy decides to hire her onto his show despite the fact that her presence causes animosity amongst the rest of his crew.

After Locke’s recent death, one person on Twitter, I don’t remember who, stated that this was the ‘greatest movie ever made’ and I’m not sure if he was joking or not, but if he wasn’t then I adamantly must disagree.  The film does start out okay and even has a certain charm to it, but the story and situations get too exaggerated until it’s impossible to take any of it seriously while also being too hokey to find funny.

The biggest logic gaps occur during the story thread dealing with Lewis being convinced to lie to the authorities that he killed Locke even though he really didn’t, so that he can get his share of her inheritance once he gets out. He’s told that if he pleads insanity that he will be ‘guaranteed’ to be released in only 3 years, but when in the history of the world has this ever happened and who would ever be dumb enough to believe it?  And that staying at a mental hospital is ‘no big deal’ and almost like a ‘resort’, which describes no mental hospital that I’ve ever head of.  There’s also no attempt by the police, or at least none is ever shown, to investigate the case to make sure Locke really has been murdered and try and retrieve her body.

The proverbial barroom brawl segment (must every western-themed film have this?) that occurs in the middle is as cliched and silly as it sounds and puts the whole rest of the film on a very cartoonish level. What’s even dumber is that during the brawl Locke goes outside to the parking lot where she gets accosted by two men, but just before they’re able to assault her Eastwood and his buddies magically appear to save her, but how could they have no known that she was in trouble when just a minute before they were shown taking part in the wild ruckus inside?

Locke’s rich-bitch personality is too much of a caricature and quickly becomes irritating to the point that when she eventually does soften, which takes awhile, it still doesn’t help. Having her able to shoot a pistol just as well as Billy seems out of character and never sufficiently explained. It would’ve been funnier had her dainty, cushy lifestyle been challenged more by throwing her into a rugged experience that she wasn’t used to, which doesn’t get played-up half as much as it could’ve or should’ve.

Eastwood’s character isn’t likable either. I would hate working for somebody that couldn’t pay me fore several months straight nor not allowing his employees to ad-lib any of their lines that he writes for them during the western skits that they put on even though people work better in their jobs when their allowed to have creativity and leeway in what they do and how they do it.

Why he would immediately fall head-over-heels for this woman is a mystery as Locke is only average in the looks department and her arrogant attitude is such an extreme turn-off that just about any guy would quickly dump her and never look back instead of continually pursuing her like Billy pretty much does here. Having them consummate their relationship should’ve only occurred at the very end while displaying much more of their personality clashes, which gets underplayed.

The scene where Billy and his gang try to hold-up a train is really funny and I enjoyed the inspired casting of having Woodrow Parfrey, who usually plays weirdo types, being cast as the head of the mental hospital, but other than that I felt the film was too predictable. You know where it’s headed right from the start and the theme of the old-fashioned, rugged individualist fighting more modern-day sensibilities has been done in so many other Eastwood films that here it becomes redundant.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Release: June 11, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 56 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Clint Eastwood

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Joe Kidd (1972)

joe kidd

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bounty hunter tracks revolutionary.

Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) is a bounty hunter sitting in jail on trumped up charges. As he is about to have his case heard the courthouse is invaded by Luis Chama (John Saxon) and his band of Mexican revolutionaries who are angered that their U.S. land claims have been denied. They threaten a full scale war against the American government and suddenly Kidd finds himself in the middle when powerful landowner Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) wants to use Kidd’s abilities to track Chama down so that he can kill him before he can ferment any more unrest. Kidd and Frank do not like each other, but Kidd reluctantly goes along while planning at some point to stop Frank and his men before they can do anymore harm.

If there is one thing to take from this film it is Duvall’s performance. This is the movie where he really came into his own and his career transitioned from small character parts and guest spots in TV-shows to an all-around dynamic lead actor. His presence here is commanding and he plays the bad guy with such zeal that it ends up taking over the entire picture while smothering the usually reliable Eastwood until he and his character become bland and transparent.

Unfortunately the script written by Elmore Leonard cannot match the same energy or creativity. It starts out well and has all the rugged ingredients one expects from a good western and it’s even directed by John Sturges who’s noted for putting together great action flicks, but unfortunately at some point it goes flat and this is mainly because there is not much of a second or third act. The scenario itself is too predictable and gets played out in a mechanical, by-the-numbers fashion. It is also devoid of much action. The part where Kidd uses his telescope rifle to pick off a shooter at long range that the others can’t is okay, but the scene where he derails a train and sends it crashing through a saloon seems implausible and not as exciting to see as it may sound.

I enjoyed Kidd’s antagonistic relationship with Lamarr (Don Stroud) who is one of Harlan’s men and a young, long haired cocksure guy that immediately gets a vendetta against the more stoic Kidd, which adds some zest, but then the film squashes it too soon by having Kidd kill Lamarr in a rather unimaginative and uneventful way. In fact the whole climactic finish works in the same way with Kidd mechanically knocking off each of Harlan’s men in a fashion similar to what Gary Cooper did to the bad guys in High Noon, which was a far better movie. Kidd’s final shootout with Harlan is a particular letdown and should’ve been played out more while only helping to cement this as one of Eastwood’s weakest and more forgettable westerns that he has done.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 14, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Sturges

Studio: Universal

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

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

City Heat (1984)

city heat

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Clint and Burt together.

Mike Murphy (Burt Reynolds) is a private eye living in 1930’s Kansas City who at one time worked as a cop. When his friend Dehl (Richard Roundtree) gets murdered after obtaining the secret accounting records of a local mobster and then trying to blackmail him with it Mike goes on a mission to find the culprit, but soon finds himself in over his head. His former police partner Speer (Clint Eastwood) gets involved and the two reluctantly work together to solve the case despite the many clashes with their personalities and methods.

The script was written by Blake Edwards who gets credited under the pseudonym Sam O. Brown. He was originally slated to direct, but Burt didn’t want to work with Edward’s wife Julie Andrews who was cast in the role that later went to Madeline Kahn because the two had clashed just a year earlier while starring in The Man Who Loved Woman. Clint desired a less intense director at the helm, so the two used their star status to have Edwards yanked from the project and replaced with actor-turned-director Richard Benjamin. The result is a strange mish-mash of a movie that at times seems like a pedestrian action flick and at other moments becomes a campy comedy.

The film starts off well. I enjoyed the fight Reynolds with has with two men inside a café while Eastwood sits back and does nothing, but things deteriorate quickly after that. Part of the problem is Eastwood and Reynolds are only funny when they are seen together and working off of each other’s contrasting styles. Alone there are boring at least here with Eastwood playing too much of a caricature of himself while Reynolds is unconvincing as a tough guy. The film would’ve worked much better had the two been partners from the very beginning instead of throwing in this contrived bitterness between the two, which is never funny or interesting.

Outside of Rip Torn’s performance as a rival gang boss the supporting cast is wasted especially Jane Alexander in a thankless throwaway role as Reynold’s secretary. Kahn manages to have some redeeming moments when she gets kidnapped by the mob and then beats her captors at poker, but it is not enough. Irene Cara sings a few good tunes, but proves to be weak as an actress.

The shootouts are great and the best thing in the movie as unlike the rest of the film they manage to have a nice balance between being exciting and funny. Unfortunately the plot itself is overblown, confusing and formulaic and a prime example of a Hollywood production relying too much on the charisma of its two stars while failing to supply them with material that is fresh or original.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 7, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Benjamin

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube