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.
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.
Josey Wales makes his way west after the Civil War, determined to live a useful and helpful life. He joins up with a group of settlers who need the protection that a man as tough and experienced as he is can provide. Unfortunately, the past has a way of catching up with you, and Josey is a wanted man. Written by
Murray Chapman <email@example.com>
The best thing I can say about this film is that it manages to be Epic --truly grand, covering broad territories interior and exterior, a lot of emotional, moral and physical ground-- without posturing or self-conscious bigness. You never get the feeling people are being herded onto a giant mark for a take. --Or that Eastwood the Director is scrambling for filler, biding his time until the timing is right for the next blow-out set piece. In a word, it really has none of the faults even of some of my long-time cherished 'favorite' epics (no names please). It is more focused and more genuinely evocative of mood than Nevada Smith, which its story may faintly call to mind; it seems less overtly "Hollywooden" than that film, too.
Westerns that stand in stature alongside Josey Wales: The Searchers, One Eyed Jacks, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Fort Apache, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Beyond that, I draw a blank. The Boetticher and Mann '50s westerns with James Stewart and Randolph Scott are probably the real spiritual predecessors of this film, although, stylistically, Eastwood has clearly studied his Ford and paid close attention to Leone. (Those who've seen Jimmy Stewart break down in tears of moral anguish in one of the aforementioned films-- or watched Randolph Scott use up all his ammo in a standoff on some matter of principal so imperative that he cannot move until the thing plays itself out, however that may be-- know exactly what I mean.)
Another thing I like: Whenever you get too comfy within the environment of this film --as you did, say, in the late John Wayne westerns, after he had become such a franchise-- along comes some major shock or disappointment or unbearably poignant bit to remind you that the model of this film is, after all, real life, where these kinds of thing happens all the time.
May I add a spoiler at this point? I said "A SPOILER??" What happens to Terrill, the chief red leg, at the end of this film is more in line with the fate I envisioned early in the going for Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. It is spectacular, painful to watch and more than a touch grisly. But it is not so overblown and RoboCopesque that you can't imagine such a pivotal moment actually happening that way. The ending of The Outlaw Josey Wales is, in a word, what the ending of Gangs would have been if the focus groups and script doctors and the Great Scorcese had gotten the thing right.
Ten stars.See it.
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