Due to the lack of men after the Civil War, a small western town allows a bachelorette with ulterior motives to save a horse-thief from the gallows by marrying him. They must deal with his old gang, the sheriff, the bank - and each other.
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Texas, shortly after the Civil War. Henry Moon is an outlaw, on the run from the law. He is captured trying to escape to Mexico and taken back to town to be hanged. The town has a special law that a condemned man can walk free if one of the single women of the town offer to marry him. Henry is in luck - at the last moment Julia Tate offers to marry him, and pretty soon they are married. However, Henry soon discovers that Julia's motives are purely business-orientated - she needs someone to work the mine on her property. This makes for a very cold marriage. Written by
"Goin' South" is a watchable comedy directed by and starring Jack Nicholson. Filmed cheaply with a local crew down in Mexico, the film wasn't received well upon release. "Star Wars" had rendered westerns obsolete and screwball comedies were long out of date.
Still, "Goin' South" holds up pretty well. Nichsolson's performance is amazing and cinematographer Néstor Almendros equals his work on Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven".
The film works more as a bizarre insight into Jack Nicholson, than a comedy. He turns what should be light slapstick, into a pretty nasty and mean spirited R rated comedy-drama. Watching his filmography from end to end, I'm surprised how consistently wicked and misogynistic his characters are. Here he players an outlaw who's hired by a sexually repressed woman to work in her gold mines. After tying her to a bed and giving her the hump of her life, she renounces her repressed ways and gradually begins to appreciate his animalistic masculinity.
The Jack Nicholson persona seems to constantly be seeking to dominate women. If he can't have his way, he breaks down. "Goin South" is like a happy version of his "Carnal Knowledge", only here he finally gets a girl who submits to his primal charm.
In terms of comedy, the film is similar in tone to the Coen Brothers' "O Brother Where Art Thou?" It's not as visually stylish, but the emphasis on wacky accents is the same. The cast includes Danny Devito, John Belushi and Christopher Lloyd, and many other comic faces pop up.
But it's Jack Nicholson's face that keeps us watching. He's manic, cartoonish, sadistic and riveting. Take a look at the IMDb photo of this film (the DVD cover). The guy looks like a bearded Saddam Hussein, laughing at his hang man's noose like a psychopath. Nicholson's face is a work of art. His eyebrows are constantly twitching, his eyes constantly mischievous, his teeth lighting up his face. Whether you enjoy the film will depend on whether you love his scenery chewing. He puts so much energy and skill into his performance here that he transcends everything else about this film.
6/10- Worth one viewing. I recommend fast forwarding all the exposition and simply watching Jack act. The guy's a pleasure to watch.
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