Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Outlaw Josey Wales

Wow, looking back at my reviews, it's been a long time since I've done a Western. Unless you count Cowboys and Aliens, I guess, and that movie is maybe best left forgotten. Well, seeing as I'm now a Texan, it's about time I saw Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales.

The Outlaw Josey Wales is about a simple farmer, whose family is murdered by a bunch of out-of-control jerks who happen to be fighting on the side of The Union. I don't know my Civil War too well, but I got the sense that they were just mercenary types, not actual uniformed enlisted men. Josey is found brooding and grieving at his son's grave by another group of men who are on the trail of those guys. He winds up joining them and fighting as a mercenary type on the Confederate side.

When the war ends, his group is persuaded by their leader to go turn in their arms to a senator and swear an oath to the Union. Everybody goes but Josey, whose war is not yet over. When the group is betrayed and gunned down, Josey goes crackers on them and mows them down with a Gatling gun. He manages to escape with his own life and that of a badly wounded kid that used to ride with him. There's a huge price on his head now and everybody and their mother is after him.

As the movie progresses, Josey Wales stays one step ahead of his pursuers, outsmarting them when he can and shooting them when he can't. He finds allies on his way, and forms a new family of sorts. Eventually it all comes to a head in a big awesome shootout.

Clint Eastwood is doing his tough guy thing, which we all know he's the best at. He's not quite The Man with No Name, since we know his story from the start, but he's almost as iconic in this role. He chews tobacco through the whole movie, which in and of itself is disgusting, but when you add to it the constant spitting, it's doubly so. And then add to it that he's always aiming his spit at things. You know, whatever he can aim at: scorpions, dogs, dead guy's heads, live guy's heads, horses, shoes, cattle. The one thing he never aims it at is a spittoon. If anybody needs any gift ideas for Josey Wales, let me know.

The supporting cast is pretty great. Josey's "family" consists of an Indian girl he rescues from being raped at a trading post, a clever old Cherokee man who acts as his foil, and an old lady coming down from the north with her granddaughter, who he rescues after their wagon train gets raided. I liked the old Cherokee man, he got a lot of the best lines.

So The Outlaw Josey Wales was another very good western revenge flick. I still prefer the heightened reality and stylization of the Sergio Leone films, while Eastwood's directing style is much more simple; clear and straightforward storytelling. Josey Wales definitely has better dialogue than the Leone films, since it wasn't all worked out after the fact in overdubbing. I could have done with less spitting on things, but I bet that was pretty historically accurate. A lot of spit in the old west and not nearly enough spittoons. It was a new frontier.

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