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This is a pretty good though very simple Western and I am sure that the somewhat low ratings are due, in part, to the movie not being exactly what Clint Eastwood fans expected. In this film, he plays Joe Kidd--a decent sort of guy but not exactly as super-human as "the man with no name" in his Spaghetti Westerns. He's a lot like Eastwood in UNFORGIVEN because he seems not so super-human, except that he is a fundamentally decent person in JOE KIDD, whereas in UNFORGIVEN he's almost like a multiple personality (one nice and the other evil). The character Joe Kidd shows off his abilities here and there, but he isn't the amazing man with a 6-shooter as you'd expect from Eastwood either--though he sure does pretty well with a rifle or train (you'll have to see what I mean by seeing the picture). So overall, this film is very good but a bit subdued and more realistic than most of Eastwood's Westerns--plus at under 90 minutes, it's pretty short as well. One way I knew this was a pretty good flick was that my wife sat and watched the film with me--and she hates Westerns.
Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) is a former gunman and bounty hunter, hired by the
landlord Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) to chase Luis Chama (John Saxon), a
Mexican-American fighting for land reform. Along the hunting, Joe realizes
that Frank's men are cold blood killers, and decides to help Luis Chama. He
convinces him to fight for his rights in the court of justice. In the way
back to the city, Frank's men try to kill Luis Chama. Clint Eastwood has
another great performance, having a great duel with Robert Duvall. The story
has some flaws, but anyway, maybe the greatest problem is the expectation
generated by the name of John Sturges: we always expect another masterpiece
from him, and maybe this is the reason why there are some underrated
comments about this above average Western movie. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): Joe Kidd
After "Dirty Harry," Eastwood returns to the West to work for the first
time and the last with John Sturges...
With quality Westerns like "Bad Day at Black Rock," "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," and "The Magnificent Seven", Sturges would be the right filmmaker to accelerate Eastwood's cowboy career... In the event he wasn't...
The excellent sketching of characters and the poignancy of the dilemma of the peasants which made "The Magnificent Seven" such a classic Western were deplorably absent in "Joe Kidd" and the film never escaped from the weakness of its own screenplay...
Eastwood brought some of the qualities of Leone Stranger, but lacked his style, his wit and his class...
The film is set in the small town of Sinola, New Mexico, at the turn of the century... Mexican peasants find themselves being exploited and persecuted by American landholders, most notably land baron Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall). The peasants find a charismatic leader in Luis Chama (John Saxon), who takes them before a biased judge to defend their land rights...
Upon learning the judge's nature, the Mexicans turn to violence and nearly kill the judge whose life is saved by Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood), a prisoner jailed for drinking too much...
This action endears Kidd to Harlan, who recruits him as a tracker for the posse he has hired to annihilate the poor Mexicans who oppose him...
However, Kidd's commitment to Harlan's cause grows weaker the more he observes the landowner's methods... At one stage Harlan takes over a small Mexican town and threatens to kill all the inhabitants if Chama does not give himself up by a specified dead time... Kidd considers the action cowardly, and decides to change sides and join Chama's forces...
If you are happy to see Eastwood back in the saddle, and you want to watch him with Robert Duvall, don't miss this highly forgettable Western... I'm quite sure it will manage to hold your attention...
Clint was already a veteran of many westerns by the time he made "Joe Kidd"
and, though many don't find it among his best, it shows Clint as the Joe of
the title doing what he does best.
As a ne'er-do-well who ends up siding with Luis Chama (Saxon), a wanted Mexican bandito, Kidd does battle with a group of bounty hunters (led by a suitably villainous Duvall) out for Chama's blood.
"Joe Kidd" is leisurely but not uninteresting; after all, any film written by Elmore Leonard has interesting points (just look at his later work). And when I saw Clint eye that train, I knew something was going to happen (you'll have to see that one yourself).
Overall, "Joe Kidd" may not be as big as "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" or as profound as "Unforgiven", but it's a good film nonetheless and bears watching. If just for that classic Eastwood squint.
Eight stars. And for future reference, never upset a man holding a pot of stew.
Joe Kidd is discreditable ex-bounty hunter who's facing a couple days
in jail, but a well-known big flier landowner Frank Harlan pays his
fine hoping that he would join his group of hunters in tracking down
the revolution leader Louis Chama. Who's upset about the treatment his
people have received in the land reform policies and he goes into town
to show he and his group mean business. But Kidd has nothing against
him so he declines, but that all changes when he finds out Chama and
his outlaws stole his horses and touched up his carers. So after that,
Kidd decides to join in the hunt, only to discover that maybe he's on
the wrong side.
How many times have we seen it, don't mess with Clint! After the highly significant cop thriller "Dirty Harry", he returned to the western foray with not-so forcible results. "Joe Kidd" is what you can call, one of Eastwood's lesser westerns, but I actually enjoyed it. Maybe that's because I knew very little about it and I wasn't expecting anything revolutionary, but I found this little slam-bang western to be an earnest vehicle for Eastwood, which has a capable supporting cast in Robert Duvall, Don Stroud and John Saxon and in the director's chair is John Sturges. With those names involved it could have been much more, but it's not all a waste.
I thought that it started off unusually and far from your typical Eastwood western. It's quite unpredictable and it's laced with a lot quick-witted humour, but when it gets into its groove with the journey part of the story. Then it falls into a systematic pattern. There's nothing overly dynamic about it, but since it's quite a short flick it goes by quick enough without any meandering sequences. We get an even amount of humorous wisecracks, sturdy action set pieces and a steam-rolling climax for the undemanding. The performances are extremely good as the main characters are very egotistical. Eastwood provides his causal persona in the lead role, although this character seems to have a little more spruce and morality in his actions than that cynical edge we come to love. Duvall is influentially striking as the snaky villain Frank Harlan. Saxon is a superb character actor and that translates into his minor performance of Louis Chama. Don Stroud, Paul Koslo and Stella Garcia were more than decent too.
The consciousness story by Elmore Leonard is rather weakly drawn-up with very little in the way development and little to pushy in it's unjustifiable moral high ground. Although I loved the ironic judge, jury and executioner symbolism that fate has in-stored for the main villain. Sturges' direction won't blow you away, but it was a competent display and he manages to incorporate the sublime backdrop of the High Sierras with on spot, open location photography. There are many well-placed angle shots and leeway in its execution. Another facet that was surprising was Lalo Schifrin's distinctively, pulsating score that's never over-powering, but it was always there.
You might forget all about this western after a day or two, but with these class people involved in this production, just expect some captivating, light entertainment. I found it satisfying enough, but Eastwood would go onto better things a year later with the cruel, spell-binding "High Plains Drifter".
Everything about "Joe Kidd" suggests quality of the highest order. Here
you've got Clint Eastwood co-starring with Robert Duvall (in one of his
first post-"Godfather" roles), to say nothing of an excellent supporting
cast that includes John Saxon, in a western directed by John Sturges whose
name I will always utter with reverence because he gave us "The Great
Escape." And it's based on an Elmore Leonard novel. Prepare to be
"Joe Kidd" opens well with Clint Eastwood all duded up in the most splendid threads he ever wore in a movie. In no time at all, though, it all goes rapidly downhill, becoming as memorable as a Hopalong Cassidy B-flick. Everyone involved acknowledged it was a disappointment, but why? Patrick McGilligan's recent bio of Eastwood (which is close to a hatchet job) suggests Sturges had succumbed to alcohol by then and simply wasn't up to the job, but star and co-producer Eastwood, humble in the presence of a man who directed so many fine films, was reluctant to usurp the reins. The movie's inferior reputation may now be in its favor. Having read so many bad reviews of the film, Eastwood fans who haven't seen it yet may have such low expectations that it may seem better than it is. If so, enjoy.
Clint Eastwood plays the title role in Joe Kidd a former bounty hunter
and tracker hired by big rancher Robert Duvall to bring in John Saxon.
Saxon's a local hero among the Mexican population in this southwestern
based film for standing up to the Anglo ranchers like Robert Duvall
who've robbed them of their lands both gunfighters and with bought
justice in the courts.
It doesn't take Clint long to decide he's made a big mistake as Duvall's hired bully boys intimidate the local Chicano population. The last straw is when Duvall and company ride into a pueblo, have the local priest Pepe Hern summon all the villagers, where he announces the next morning he'll shoot five people if they don't surrender Saxon or give him information where Saxon is. The sort of stuff the Nazis did in their occupied countries. Duvall anticipates Clint's change of mind by taking his gun and locking him up as well. But of course there's no way that's going to stop Clint Eastwood.
Not that Saxon is anything to write home about. He's a bit of a lout himself, especially in the way he treats his girl friend Stella Garcia. As he so eloquently puts it, all he wants her for is something to keep warm with on those cold nights on the prairie and he's not interested in her opinion. Talk about your alpha male on the prairie. Still he's one of the good guys for better or worse.
I don't think Joe Kidd measures up to Clint Eastwood westerns like The Unforgiven or Pale Rider or The Outlaw Josey Wales. But it's one of the most entertaining he ever did. I'm not bored by one second of it and I do love that climax where Eastwood makes use of that locomotive in a creative fashion. Joe Kidd is definitely an Eastwood film for the ages.
Perhaps it's expectations regarding the talent assembled here that make
one feel somewhat underwhelmed: the screenplay is by Elmore Leonard,
the direction by John Sturges, and genre veteran Clint Eastwood is the
star. Ultimately, the story never really catches fire, and there's not
much in the film that's memorable - save for one amusing bit of
business with a train. Overall, "Joe Kidd" lacks distinction, which is
too bad. Eastwood is a typically low key and efficient hero, and he's
backed up by a strong supporting cast. The film has the look of
quality, with lovely scenery, sets & photography. Fans of the genre
will find that this kills an hour and a half fairly easily.
Clint plays the title role, a former bounty hunter who's sprung from jail by a ruthless land baron, Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall). Harlan wants a man eliminated: Mexican revolutionary Luis Chama (John Saxon), who wants to dispute land ownership. Joe reluctantly saddles up with Harlans' associates, only to have a change of heart when he sees how cold blooded they are. He and Chama reach an understanding and begin to do battle with Harlan and company.
Duvall is a worthy antagonist, and he does a nice job of underplaying his role. Saxon has a commanding presence, and Stella Garcia is delightful as the feisty Helen Sanchez. Don Stroud, James Wainwright, and Paul Koslo are all great fun as Harlans' goons, especially Stroud as he gets increasingly flustered. It's also nice to see other familiar faces such as Gregory Walcott as the sheriff, Dick Van Patten as the hotel manager, Joaquin Martinez as Manolo, and Ron Soble as Ramon.
Bruce Surtees's cinematography is noteworthy, and Lalo Schifrin contributes an excellent score.
While this doesn't measure up to classic Clint Westerns, it's still reasonably engaging.
Seven out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Clint Eastwood, scenarist Elmore Leonard, and director John Sturges
teamed up to make this traditional, action-packed horse opera about
racial injustice in the old West. "Joe Kidd" ranks as Eastwood's least
appreciated western. Nevertheless, it is a solid, well-made, shoot'em
up with spectacular scenery enhanced by Bruce Surtees' pictorially
elegant widescreen cinematography, and a well-rounded, first-class
supporting cast including Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, Paul
Koslo, and Gregory Walcott. "Mission Impossible" composer Lalo
Schifrin's orchestral score delivers atmosphere and ramps up suspense
without calling attention to itself. Schifrin is the flip side of the
coin to Sturges' traditional composer Elmer Bernstein who always
brought a thunderous, larger-than-life, Aaron Copland quality to his
westerns, chiefly "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Hallelujah Trail."
Indeed, "Bad Day at Black Rock" helmer John Sturges has crafted a
modest, little dust-raiser that gives Clint Eastwood his least
pretentious but most masculine role while Duvall makes a worthy
adversary with Saxon as the victimized Hispanic caught in the
crossfire. Elmore Leonard of "Hombre" and "3:10 to Yuma" delivers his
usual brand of quirky dialogue that has an improvisational spontaneity.
"Joe Kidd" isn't the kind of oater that makes a big impression. It
lacks the off-beat imagination of "High Plains Drifter," the stolidity
of "Hang'em High," the abrasive violence of Leone's Spaghetti western
trilogy, the epic grandeur of Eastwood's own "Outlaw Josey Wales," or
the funereal Bergman-esquire histrionics of Eastwood's "Pale Rider" and
"Unforgiven." Watching "Joe Kidd" is like eating ham on rye and washing
it down with a light beer. You'll enjoy it, but you'll probably forget
it until somebody prompts you to comment about it and because it is so
fluid, you'll dismiss as adequate but less than memorable. If you do
remember "Joe Kidd," you'll remember it as the western where Clint
Eastwood wields an automatic German Mauser pistol and crashes a
locomotive through a saloon.
"Joe Kidd" unfolds with a long shot of a Mexican woman, Helen (Stella Garcia) driving a buckboard across a rock-strewn landscape. Schifrin's music is low-key and ominous. As the introductory credits appear, several Mexican horsemen drift into Sinola from various directions, dismount, and casually loiter here and there. Unarmed, they seem initially unremarkable. As several more Mexican riders appear and the music mounts insistently, all these Mexicans converge on Helen's wagon in a back lot. They uncover a pile of guns and arm themselves. Meanwhile, Sheriff Bob Mitchell (Gregory Walcott of "Midway") leaves the courthouse as the judge explains to the mostly Hispanic audience why their land claims cannot be recognized as valid. At the jail, the deputies bring coffee and a pot of stew to the prisoners for breakfast. Ramon (Ron Soble of "True Grit") and Naco (Pepe Callahan of "Mackenna's Gold") share the cell with Joe (Clint Eastwood) who wears city duds and a derby. Mitchell arrested Joe for drunk and disorderly and handcuffed him to the bed. Naco slides Joe's coffee out of reach. Later, Joe slings the pot of slew in Naco's villainous face and then clobbers him with pot.
Luis Chama (John Saxon of "Enter the Dragon") invades the courthouse with his men, seizes land property deeds from the records, and sets them ablaze because his forefathers were treated similarly. Chama wants to take the judge as a hostage, but Joe thwarts him. Another amusing scene takes place when Joe waits in a bar for Naco. Naco enters and Joe raises a double-barreled shotgun with one hand. Naco turns to leave, but then bursts back into the saloon as Joe triggers the shotgun. This is a signature scene that Leonard used in his novel "Valdez Is Coming." Chama hightails it out of Sinola, and Joe winds up serving 10 days because he refused to pay the $10 fine for poaching a mule deer on Indian reservation lands. He also resisted arrest because The day after the ruckus, Harlan (Robert Duvall of "The Godfather") and his entourage, including Elma (Lynne Marta), Roy Gannon (Paul Koslo) Lamarr Simms (Don Stroud of "Coogan's Bluff"), and Olin Mingo (James Wainwright) step off the train and settle into the hotel run by Dick Van Patten.
Not long after Kidd hires on to guide Harlan and company into rough country in pursuit of Chama, he discovers that Harlan has no qualms about killing Chama. At one point, Harlan takes an entire village hostage and threatens to five people if Chama doesn't give himself up. Harlan fires Kidd and packs him into the church with the rest of the hostages. The village priest smuggles a revolver to Kidd, and he escapes with Helen and they find Chama. Kidd defies the odds and takes Chama back to Sinola, but Harlan doesn't give up so easily, and "Joe Kidd" concludes with a gunfight. The last scene when Kidd guns down Harlan in the same courtroom epitomizes Kidd's character. He is seated in the judge's chair so he amounts to judge, jury, and executioner.
Characterization is integrated into the action so that the entire film becomes a fast-moving, tightly-knit story without one extraneous character or event. Every action that Kidd performs in the opening sequence foreshadows his later behavior. Rescuing the judge from Chama's men compares with Kidd's decision to bring in Chama before Harlan's men kill innocent Mexicans. The remorse that Kidd displayed in the courtroom or tried to conceal with his admission later that he "made a poor judgment with which he must live." This philosophy reveals Kidd's character. He accepts life in terms of good and poor judgments and lives with them. He is not proud of his mistakes, but he wastes no sentiment on them. Throughout the opening scenes, Sturges strongly characterizes Kidd as a man of unruffled nonchalance. Sturges wrote me in a 1978 letter: "There are a lot of holes in Joe Kidd. Some in the script that were never fixed and some resulting from cuts made because scenes just didn't play."
Altogether, "Joe Kidd" qualifies as an underrated oater.
Critics who point out the flaws in Joe Kidd are dead-on. Few A-budget Westerns are as muddled as this scripted mess. Just try to figure out the murky motivations that guide Eastwood's shifting loyalties as he bounces from Duvall to Saxon to the sheriff, or is it the other way around. By film's end, my head was spinning. And just why would Chicano insurgent Saxon entrust his fate to an Anglo judicial system he so clearly despises. Figure that one out too. While through it all Clint gives us his best humorless squint. One thing for sure--he's getting no help from director Sturges who appears to have gone on holiday. Throw in a gratuitous seduction scene that's nearly laughable, a swipe at social conscience replete with phony Mexican accents, an incredibly staged train crash, and the end result is Eastwood's weakest Western. I realize that for many fans, "Eastwood" and "bad Movie" are a contradiction in terms. Nonetheless, the real train wreck here is the movie itself.
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