The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
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The horned toad says we should go to Mexico.
I've been doing a bit of a Western marathon, and I'm so glad I didn't comment on this one before watching Unforgiven, because that really shows the right way to make a gloomy Western. Now, I have no intention of saying that this movie is bad. On the contrary, it's pretty dang good. There are just some big issues that keep me from loving it.
There is, however, a lot of good to it. Clint Eastwood is a master of the aloof wanderer. I can't say he portrays this character all that differently from The Man With No Name, but the context of the story works with his performance and alters it quite interestingly. Here, he comes off as shut-in and distant for entirely different (and more clear) reasons. He's also a great director. The colour palate of the movie, in particular, is eye-catching. There's a lot of grim, saturated browns and greens, with sprinklings of vibrant autumn leaves, and the scarves of Union soldiers. Chief Dan George's peaceful wisdom provides a much-needed balance to Eastwood's grit, and Paula Trueman is definitely the comedic highlight of the film.
My big issue is the tone. The movie would've worked much better if it was a straight war drama with a Western paint job. A different take on your typical Rambo-type character; one that's a down-and-dirty gunslinger. But, this clashes with some scenes that you might find in A Fistful Of Dollars, just without Sergio Leone's masterful use of suspense. Wales will take out numerous opponents with apparent ease, and then we'll go to a scene of quiet remorse for his lost family. They just don't fit together. The only other notable flaw that comes to mind is Bill McKinney's performance. He's quite a one-note villain, and is another facet of the movie holding it back. I know this could be a unique, complex movie, but as-is, it's still a strong entry in the Eastwood catalogue.
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In 10 official lists
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This movie ranks #20 in Western
This movie ranks #64 in 100 Westerns (BFI Screen Guide)
This movie ranks #205 in National Film Registry
This movie ranks #219 in Empire 500
This movie ranks #440 in 500 Essential Cult Movies
This movie ranks #491 in 501 Must See Movies
This movie ranks #608 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #646 in The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made
This movie ranks #678 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #873 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?