U.S Marshal Howard Nightingale is a man who has big political aspirations and to achieve this dream. He and his posse of deputies go after an out-law Jack Strawhorn. When Nightingale captures Strawhorn, just like his other captors or conquests he exploits it through the media for public support. Strawhorn would be Nightingale's ticket into the US senate, but Strawhorn thinks otherwise.
Can westerns be too low-key? 'Posse' felt so. Kirk Douglas directs and stars in this understated, but thoroughly ambitious under-the-radar western that had something cynical to say when it came to its closing credits. Quite heavy-handed and aware of its messages (money buys loyalty with the guys donning their badges being no better than the outlaws and representing an image (the people's?) to manipulative achieve a politically upper-hand), but the story's format is just so odd and subversive. The western conventions are there, but by the end William Roberts and Christopher Knopf's cleverly sharp (if sly) material basically turned it upside down with an ironic turn of events. It has that fragrance of the pioneer Hollywood westerns, but its punishing violence and sexual inclusions with a quiet, but powerful conclusion roots it in the 70s. The unusual theme to it and the effortlessly collected and cool-witted performances of Kirk Douglas and Bruce Dern (who shared a terrific chemistry) cover for how mechanical the film did look. Nothing totally skillful or stylish about it. Douglas' direction is raggedly rough and a little too plain. However some action shootouts and chase sequences were competently entertaining, but when the violence did hit, it wasn't presented in such a meaningless parade. It went hand-to-hand with the thoughtful nature of the script. Dick O'Neill's taut, but at times flashy photography is fluidly shot and Maurice Jarre's uncanny score is strongly delivered. Supporting Douglas and Dern (who's character's made great for sparing confrontations) is excellent performances by Bo Hopkins, James Stacy, Beth Brickell, Dick O'Neill and Alfonso Arau. A western that's too interesting to pass up because of the calculating tone lurking underneath.
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