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Esqueda, an outlaw, attempts to force settlers King and Cordelia Cameron out of his territory. Esqueda's mother raised Rio as her own. Rio has loyalty to Esqueda but also feels the settlers should be able to stay. A showdown between the two raised as brothers is unavoidable. Written by
If shoot 'em up westerns are to your taste, this is probably not your cup of tea.
The theme of Civilization vs. Barbarism is nicely explored in this very unusual western. The dialog is light years beyond the dialog in most westerns. Specifically, Rio's dialog is some of the best ever written for any character in any film of this genre. Whoever wrote it must have been bi-lingual. From his syntax, it is clear Rio speaks English as his second language. It is as if he is speaking Anglicized Spanish proverbs half of the time. Very Spanish.
The gay subtext is unmistakable in the scenes between Rio and Esqueda, yet it is fairly subtle. Rio's beautiful horse and its livery, and his attire all summon up images of early cinematic western heroes. Rio looks like the Cisco Kid's dark alter- ego!
It is difficult to accept Cameron's faith that Rio is honorable enough not to kill him once he turns his back. This issue really has two aspects: One is the credibility of Cameron's trust; the second is Rio's actual trustworthiness. Today we find it difficult to believe BOTH that Cameron would be so trusting of Rio and that Rio actually would turn out to be trustworthy. Our credulity is again stretched by Cameron's entrusting Rio with his ranch and wife.
But Cameron is a newcomer to the territory, and he values Rio's savvy - about horses, ranch hands and probably survival! Cameron tells Rio that he wants him to help acquire horses for the ranch. Later Cameron's wife asks Rio about the sudden abundance of ranch hands which Cameron wasn't able to hire on his own. These things validate Cameron's motive, implausible as it may seem. I just accept that Cameron is pretty desperate and that he is a good judge of character.
Regarding Rio: There was a time when a man felt like he owed his life to someone who had saved (or spared) it. Perhaps most men still lived by that code of honor at the time the movie is set. Or perhaps this was preserved longer in Hispanic culture - Rio's culture. Or perhaps Rio is simply a throw-back in his adherence to such a code. Anyway, the issue did not ruin the movie for me.
Delia seems particularly naive (or stupid) for getting Rio to take her to plead Cameron's case with Esqueda.
Despite these weaknesses, I enjoyed the film. It never really made me feel excitement, but it generated palpable tension among several characters. However, its uniqueness and dialog were what kept me interested throughout. I found Rio to be one of the most fascinating characters in this entire genre. One of my favorite scenes is when Esqueda is kicked back in his chair in the saloon with his filthy, bare feet thrust toward the camera. Nope, not your typical western!
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