Valentine "Snakeskin" Xavier, a trouble-prone drifter trying to go straight, wanders into a small Mississippi town looking for a simple and honest life but finds himself embroiled with problem-filled women.
Most everyone in town thinks that Sheriff Calder is merely a puppet of rich oil-man Val Rogers. When it is learned that local baddie Bubber Reeves has escaped prison, Rogers' son is concerned because he is having an affair with Reeves' wife. It seems many others in town feel they may have reasons to fear Reeves. Calder's aim is to bring Reeves in alive, unharmed. Calder will have to oppose the powerful Rogers on one hand and mob violence on the other, in his quest for justice.Written by
Buxx Banner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In same ways it feels like a melodramatic masterpiece that just missed its mark
The Chase (1966)
I give this movie extra credit for ambition, and for richness of story and complexity. It's a torrid soap opera overall, which is a good thing because it is saved by its romanticized excesses. The title is odd, in a way, because the obvious "chase" here is the pursuit of the convict on the run (played by Robert Redford, and not his best performance). But in a way there are all kinds of other chases here—women and men wanting each other with a whole network of adultery and would-be affairs at play.
But never quite shown. This is a movie pushing the end of the censorship code, but the code is still officially in place and so there are still some boundaries, even for a director like Arthur Penn, who would help New Hollywood blossom (notably with "Bonnie and Clyde" the next year). But the steamy background as this small town wrestles with decency, among other things, is great stuff.
Decency, as a core idea, is what the main character is all about—the sheriff played by Marlon Brando. Brando is great. He isn't quite the Texas sheriff intended, of course (he's "Brando"), but he has nuance and strength, and he helps his scenes a lot. But the movie is brimming with talent: Robert Duvall, for one. Two women do their parts—Jane Fonda and Angie Dickinson—though neither is given enough to do besides support their male counterparts (Fonda is a kind of "loose woman" and Dickinson is a girlfriend having affairs).
But Penn is the biggest talent, pulling together a very complicated story in two hours. Photographer Joseph LaShelle is great, too, one of the masters of early widescreen color in the US. Together they make this movie fluid, beautiful, and constantly demanding in the best way.
What holds it back is a little of the superficiality that is so common in early 60s films—it's about sensation and effect, about drama for its own sake. You never quite care about Redford in his run (he's a surprisingly small part of the movie until the end). And even all the other characters working out their prejudices are a bit on the surface.
There is a welcome racial theme here, and a generational one (young people utterly selfish and party hungry in this version, and older folk filled with prejudice and greed). I say see this film. There's a lot going on, and I could watch it a second time just for everything I missed.
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