Nun Sara is on the run in Mexico and is saved from cowboys by Hogan, who is preparing for a future mission to capture a French fort. The pair become good friends, but Sara never does tell him the true reason behind her being outlawed.
A hard but mediocre cop is assigned to escort a prostitute into custody from Las Vegas to Phoenix, so that she can testify in a mob trial. But a lot of people are literally betting that they won't make it into town alive.
A Stranger rides into in the dusty mining town of Lago, where the townspeople are living in the shadow of a dark secret. After a shootout leaves the town's hired-gun protectors dead, the town's leaders petition the Stranger to stay and protect them from three ruthless outlaws who are soon to be released from prison. The three have their sights set on returning to Lago to wreak havoc and take care of some unfinished business. A series of events soon has the townspeople questioning whether siding with the Stranger was a wise idea as they quickly learn the price that they each must pay for his services. As the outlaws make their way back into Lago, they discover that the town is not exactly as they had left it, and waiting in the shadows is the Stranger, ready to expose the town's secret and serve up his own brand of justice. Written by
"High Plains Drifter" is probably Clint Eastwood's darkest western and that says quite a bit. It has similarities with "Pale Rider", his other western gem. The hero is a mysterious, ghost-like figure and he fights against the evil and corruption that infests a small town in the middle of nowhere. What sets these two films apart is that here Eastwood is fighting a lone battle , and his only sidekick is the midget Mordecai, while almost all other inhabitants of Lago are corrupted or/and cowardly.
Eastwood delivers one of his strongest performances here and manages to be charming and humorous besides exacting cool-blooded vengeance. His interactions with the two women (Marianna Hill and Verna Bloom, both solid in their roles) who are very different draws comparisons to his earlier film "Hang 'Em High". But what sets this apart from the typical Eastwood fare is the dark nature of this movie. Anthony James, the man with the unforgettable face, is once again back as one of the main villains. The rest of the cast are quite forgettable and lesser known names, which adds credibility to this movie, making it a film to be taken seriously and not just a gathering of famous faces.
This film's perhaps strongest asset is the excellent screenplay by Ernest Tidyman, the Oscar-winner for "French Connection" and it is probably the best screenplay ever written for an Eastwood-directed western. The storyline never ceases to surprise and is full of suspense and great dialogue. As always, Clint knew who to pick. As always in the Clint films, this movie is not about love. Clint and Bloom's affair almost results in love, but it never gets the chance to develop. The surprise ending adds a great touch. This film really is a delight for fans of Clint Eastwood and unusual, film-noirish westerns.
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