Clay Lomax, a bank robber, gets out of jail after an 8 year sentence. He is looking after Sam Foley, the man who betrayed him. Knowing that, Foley hires three men to pay attention of Clay's steps. The things get complicated when Lomax, waiting to receive some money from his ex-lover, gets only the notice of her death and an 8 year old girl, sometimes very annoying, presumed to be his daughter. Written by
Michel Rudoy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is a disappointing follow-up to the same writer-producer-director team who made TRUE GRIT (1969) – here tackling another Western with child interest, but replacing John Wayne with Gregory Peck. Not a genre stalwart like The Duke, perhaps, but he did manage some 12 appearances in Westerns between 1946 and 1989 – sometimes to striking effect as in DUEL IN THE SUN (1946), THE GUNFIGHTER (1950) and THE BIG COUNTRY (1958).
Anyway, the film is a standard revenge tale which starts with Peck being released from a 7-year prison sentence (caught after he was shot by his own partner, James Gregory, as they were fleeing the scene of a bank robbery); on his way to town, he is told to pick up something from an arriving train – which turns out to be a little girl, the daughter of an old flame of his who has since passed away! The relationship between weathered cowboy Peck and the cute yet spirited girl is nicely handled; this, however, serves to render the star’s character mellow as opposed to mean – and, consequently, diverts attention from the central plot (which sees Gregory hiring a trio of brash young gunman to follow Peck’s movements).
The cast is divided between old pros and new talent – the former including Jeff Corey (as a crippled bartender brutally murdered by the reckless gang) and Paul Fix, and the latter, Pat Quinn (from Arthur Penn’s ALICE’S RESTAURANT  – as a widow who shelters Peck and the girl, but falls foul of his pursuers) and Susan Tyrell (soon to be Oscar-nominated for John Huston’s FAT CITY  – as a prostitute who tags along with the villains). As a sign of the times, too, the film features mild instances of nudity and foul language. Perhaps the best thing about it is the fine score by Dave Grusin; while certainly harmless and commendably brief (running only a little over 90 minutes), there’s more talk than action here – the film’s title notwithstanding – and it doesn’t even rise to the expected climax!
I had missed out on the film countless times on Italian TV over the years (the same goes for Peck’s next Western, BILLY TWO HATS ); this viewing, in fact, came via a dubbed pan-and-scan version (but, frankly, it’s not worth fretting over the lack of original language and correct aspect ratio where minor stuff such as SHOOTOUT is concerned)!
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