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A primeval western experience
chaos-rampant12 July 2008
As far as westerns go, the 60's were all about Italy and the spaghetti western. By 1967 the ripples Leone's movies are about to make in the American film-making business are around the corner, which leaves The Shooting hanging in a peculiar time and place. Too out there to be appreciated by the traditional western crowd of the 50's and not as cynic and hard-boiled as the spaghetti western-influenced works of the early 70's.

But it succeeds exactly because of that. Monte Hellman crafts a mesmeric, primeval, ultimately existential western that exists in a parallel western universe. A mythic world of some other order. That it refuses to sit down and explain what is going on with the plot is a testament to the film's strength. Not everything needs to be explained. It's all about the impression images make. Impressionistic in that aspect but also surreal. Very. Who is the woman? Who is Billy and the bearded man? As Warren Oates, Jack Nicholson (in an early role here but showing the potential he would fulfill later on in his career) travel through the barren desert, in search of something or someone, The Shooting slowly but gradually peels back the layers of conventional film-making to reveal an off-beat, gritty and fascinating movie. Some of the editing used by Hellman (day to night and vice versa) only serves to disorient the viewer more.

Not only is this a rare, one of a kind western but in all its psychotronic, b-movie glory, it's one of the best of its kind America has to offer. Kudos to Hellman for not refusing to take chances.
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Absolutely fascinating viewing. A difficult movie but an unforgettable one!
Infofreak7 May 2003
Monte Hellman has my vote for the most underrated and overlooked American director of all time. Like so many excellent film makers he got his first big break from legendary b-grade producer/director Roger Corman, and he co-directed (uncredited) Corman's 'The Terror' and edited his biker classic 'The Wild Angels'. Jack Nicholson starred in 'The Terror' and he an Hellman soon bonded together personally and professionally. Their greatest collaborations were the two 1960s westerns 'Ride In The Whirlwind' and 'The Shooting', filmed simultaneously, but released separately. Both are great movies but 'The Shooting' is the more interesting of the two, and along with Hellman's classic road movie 'Two-Lane Blacktop' his finest achievement. Both movies are close to being masterpieces, but rarely get mentioned except by other film makers, like Quentin Tarantino, who is a major fan, and enlisted Hellman's help in getting his debut 'Reservoir Dogs' to the big screen. 'The Shooting' is difficult viewing for most people. It requires you to pay close attention and fill in the blanks yourself. It isn't exactly a puzzle movie, but not everything is blatantly spelled out. The viewer has to work a little, but it's really worth it! The four main actors are all excellent. Not just Nicholson, and the legendary Warren Oates, but also Will Hutchins (of 50s TV western 'Sugarfoot'), and the beautiful Millie Perkins, who also appeared with Nicholson in 'Ride In The Whirlwind', though her role here is much more substantial and impressive. 'The Shooting' is one of the most original westerns I've ever seen, and easily one of the most underrated movies of the 1960s. I highly recommend it!
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Uncompromising Indie Western
cineman229 October 2002
The Shooting is an indie western that reflects Americans' feelings of dread and uncertainty following the assasinations of JFK, Bobby, Malcolm, and Martin. Man overwhelmed by his environment. This West is a lonely,cruel world primarily populated by poor, uneducated men struggling to survive. The style is minimalist in that we are given information, through images and words, with great restraint and economy. An intense experience that calls for sustained attention. Comments below:"no idea what it's about", "dialogue incomprehensible",wish "storyline could be followed easily"-indicate some may benefit from a proper sinopsis, which I have not found. Others should view film before reading further. Willet returns to his camp and finds dimwit Coley quite agitated.Coley states that Willet's brother Coin and partner Leland arrived drunk from Winslow. Coin had run over a man and a child and needed to flee.Leland stays behind and gets shot by an unknown assailant. Willet and Coley are approached by a woman(we had seen her shoot her horse for no obvious reason) who offers $1000 to be escorted to Kingsley but refuses to reveal her name.They travel toward Crosstree where Leland learns Coin bought a horse 2 days ago. They proceed through the desert. The woman shoots at random, Willet believes she is sending signals to someone following. Gunslinger Billy emerges from hiding and joins them. His relation to the woman is unclear.They encounter day-old horse tracks as Billy and Coley threaten each other. The woman's horse pulls lame. Billy threatens to shoot Coley if he doesn't stay behind, demands Willet's gun and reveals he killed Leland. Willet:"I have my reason for staying.There ain't gonna be no killing". They encounter a bearded man with a broken leg and his horse.We see Coley following on foot. He takes the bearded man's horse. Billy spots Coley approaching and goes after him. Coley aims at Billy who shoots Coley in the face. Willet buries him. Woman to Willet:"I know that feeling.I've carried the burden of it longer than you". The elements continue to take its toll on people and animals.The woman rides while the men follow on foot.Willet charges at Billy, tosses his gun away,beats him and crushes his hand with a rock. Willet follows the woman, now on foot, into a canyon. She spots Coin, who looks identical to Coley, and shoots. Coin returns fire as Willet comes behind the woman. All three are hit.Billy wanders aimlessly waiting to die. The film leaves plenty of questions open to interpretation. Why wouldn't the woman attempt to kill Willet if Coin looks just like him? Did her son(and husband?) survive being run over? Why is Billy involved? An existentialist view of man and his predicament permeates this uncompromising western. 9/10
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Rare and complex Western by Monte Hellman that tells hows a group pursues an unknown rider
ma-cortes29 September 2009
This especial Western with allegoric qualities deals with a mysterious woman (Millie Perkins who wore a hairpiece) bent on vengeance , she forms a group (Will Hutchins and Warren Oates who in his biography he said that he had a crush on co-star Millie) to escort her across a warming desert . Later on , the posse is joined to a cocky gunfighter (Jack Nicholson) until a surprising finale.

Outlandish and difficult western is packed with thrills , exciting pursuits , noisy gun-play and strong performances . Written , produced (along with an uncredited Roger Corman) and starred by Jack Nicholson . Most budget was spent on the salaries for the horse wranglers , who along with the cast were the only union element in the picture . The slight budget was wasted on near constant rains ; in fact , very little was accomplished in the first two days of filming because of the severe flooding in the areas that were chosen as key locations . It is well set against the hot barren background and splendidly photographed landscapes by Gregory Sandor . Cinematographer Sandor shot the bulk of this film using natural light . Made back to back with ¨Ride the whirlwind¨ (where some cowboys are mistaken for members of a band) , both of them bear similar cast , cameraman , director and technicians.

This offbeat and strange motion picture filmed in 1965 was well directed by the maverick Monte Hellman , being firstly shown at the Montreal Film Festival in Canada . His movies are full of similarly independent-minded stars as Jack Nicholson and Warren Oates (his habitual actor) and result to be appreciated by the critics but virtually suffer lukewarm reception by the public . His firsts films were produced by Roger Corman , two horror quickies in low budget , titled ¨The beast from haunted cave (1959)¨ and ¨Back door to hell (64)¨ . After that , he directed two intelligent Western filmed concurrently in 1967 , and ¨Two-lane blacktop (71)¨, describing the underbelly of American life , furthermore ¨Cockfighter (74)¨, a not easily approachable film and sometimes nor even easy understandable . Later on , Hellman has not got his balance right , film-making flops as the Western ¨China 9, Liberty 37 (1979)¨, adventures ¨Iguana (88) and commercial terror as ¨Silent night, deadly night 3 (1989)¨. Nowadays, Hellman only makes failed B movies and television series .
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Answers (warning: some spoilers)
curtis-813 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Questions posed by a previous poster:

#1: Who is this woman?

She is the wife of the man and mother of the child killed by Will Gashade's brother, Coin. Mentioned at opening of film.

#2: How are she and Billy related? He is a gunfighter she hired to help her avenge her husband and child. Whether he is anything more is unclear.

#3: Why does she want to kill Gashade's brother? Because he ran over and killed her husband and child when on a drunken rampage in town.

#4: Why does Gashade help her track his brother down? In hopes of stopping the killing before it happens. If he doesn't go with them under that pretense, they will be out to kill him before he gets to Coin.

That much is clear.

Now,as for another poster's question: why the woman wouldn't shoot Will Gashade on sight when he looks exactly like Coin, I couldn't say. Except that it's just more pretentious to have two Warren Oates at the end of the picture. And pretension is pretty much all this picture is about.
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A subversive western
howard.schumann22 August 2005
"Did I tell you to do something?" - Billy "I don't give a curly-hair, yellow-bear, double dog damn if you did" - Coley

Four people ride across the desert tracking a killer but it is not clear who they really are and who it is they are looking for. In Monte Hellman's subversive western The Shooting, just released for the first time on DVD, Warren Oates is Willett Gashade, a bounty hunter turned mine owner who returns to find his brother Coin missing, his partner dead, and a fellow worker in a state of panic. When a strange woman shows up, the three set out on a journey with an unknown destination that leads to a final bizarre confrontation. The Shooting has more questions than you can find on the SAT and it is often a frustrating challenge to fit the pieces together. Hellman shot the film on a limited budget in eighteen days in the desert country near Kanab, Utah with B-movie producer Roger Corman and a young actor named Jack Nicholson.

It was released to television and did not play in the theater until years later after it developed a cult following in Europe. The quality of the transfer is impeccable but the dialogue borders on the incomprehensible. Slow-witted but good humored Coley (Will Hutchins) is fearful as he tells Gashade that he was asleep when he heard an argument between Willett's partner Leland Drum and Coin. He says that Colin fled, and Leland was shot dead by an unseen gunman and tells Gashade something about Coin having ridden down "a man and a little person, maybe a child," but Coley's not sure about that. Soon, a woman (Millie Perkins) who is not named arrives and offers to pay Gashade to guide her to Kingsley, a town that lies some hours away, beyond a dangerous desert. The woman is abrasive and complaining but Coley takes to her immediately while Willett is distanced and aloof.

Mystery piles upon mystery. When the riding party sets out, the woman asks to be led in the wrong direction without offering any explanation. The woman shoots her horse claiming it was lame but it turns out have no broken bones. When asked why she shot the horse, after a long period of silence, she can only muster a feeble smile. Along the way, Coley, Willett and the woman meet up with Billy Spears (Nicholson), a nattily dressed gunman with a sadistic smirk, and it becomes apparent that the purpose of the journey may be to track down the person or persons responsible for shooting Leland. Beyond that it is anyone's guess as to what the film means and an unforgettable climax does not clear up the confusion.

The director has said that The Shooting is a mirror of the Kennedy assassination where doubt remains about what actually happened on that day, but the connection is murky. Whatever its ultimate meaning, The Shooting is an involving ride full of twists and turns and Jack Nicholson's mighty performance as Billy is worth the price of admission. Actually the meaning may be revealed when Gashade says to Millie, "If I heard your name I wouldn't know it, would I?" She says, "No." Then he says, "then I don't see no point to it." She says, "there isn't any." Perhaps like life, The Shooting doesn't mean anything. It's just there to grab your attention.
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Difficult, complex existential western that is ultimately enthralling
cfisanick25 April 2003
Most casual film viewers will find Monte Hellman's "The Shooting" to be slow, boring, and pretentious. But serious fans of cinema will be amazed at how terrific this existential morality play really is. Hellman's version of the old West is at once depressing and beautiful, and the rickety production values on display actually enhance the atmosphere. And of course, who can forget that inscrutable ending with echoes to the Zapruder film? This is fascinating stuff for the patient, thoughtful film student.
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Great movie... and really not hard to figure out.
man-man-dot-org22 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I've just read some of the other reviews, and I'm baffled as to why people find this movie hard to decipher. Maybe it's because I've seen El Topo, the bar-none king of incomprehensible Westerns, but The Shooting is lucid, well-plotted, and perfectly understandable if you're willing to just think a leeeeetle bit as the movie unrolls.

Warren Oates is his classic surly self, grumping his way through a taciturn Western with an idiotic associate he feels slightly responsible for, a cranky woman who is dragging him through the desert as her guide on a quest for vengeance against the man who killed her husband and son (Coin, Oates' brother, as set up in the first three minutes of the movie), and a psychotic hired gun played by Nicholson, who was obviously enjoying the hell out of the whole thing.

The beauty of The Shooting is in its spartan simplicity -- it's a story stripped down to the minimum, a Western bleached to the bone by the relentless desert sun. If the words "archetype" and "impressionistic" scare you, you should avoid this movie. If you want a very '60s take on the Western, with a great visual sense and the odd descent into trippy cheese, this is definitely the movie for you. 8/10 -- could have been 9 but for Miss, who is written and played a little too shrill for me to believe.
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strange, dark western with something going on beneath its B-movie surface
MisterWhiplash3 March 2008
The Shooting shouldn't be any great shakes when it comes to westerns. That's the case at least in terms of production value. It was shot on a more-or-less-comparable shoestring budget alongside Ride in the Whirlwind by Monte Hellman, and both feature actors like Harry Dean Stanton, Millie Perkins, Warren Oates, and of course Jack Nicholson. They seem to have a tenth of most a common Hollywood budget, and especially with the Shooting you really need to pay attention at times (or just glance repeatedly at the video box description) to understand what's going on. But there's something to it, something that defines it through the mood and execution that drives up the material, provided in what seems to be a one-time-only genre exercise from Five Easy Pieces writer Carol Eastman, to a more interesting plain. As the dead end these characters are facing is going further along, the desert sun is pushing down more and more, a crushing weight on a tense atmosphere where death seems to be just at the blink of an eye.

That's at least as deep as it gets anyway. While Nicholson's Whirlwind script might have dealt better with the existential motifs (whatever they may be in interpretation), the Shooting is good for, at least, its bedrock of a story and some of its acting. Oates plays a cowboy who along with a slightly dim but alert younger cowboy are hired by a woman (just called Woman, played by Perkins with a bit of a b***h streak in a so-so turn almost in spite of a great presence to her character) who wants them to take her across a ways to a small town. Why they're hired they can't figure, and it bugs Oates all the more when another fellow starts to follow them: Billy (Nicholson), a bounty hunter with few words, black gloves and a streak of tough-guy talk whenever he speaks, follows along with them also getting a cut of the stake at hand from the Woman. Turns out there might be more than meets the eye to this mission.

What the Shooting provides best as is a creative sense of the unusual beneath what should come out of some 2nd rate paperback book. There's violence brimming at the seams, and in certain visuals, like the flashback early in the film with the character outside the ten who just keels over in the shade of blue all over. Or the figure of the bearded man with the broken leg out in the desert, who from far away looks like a weird shape until his arm moves (another doomed creature). And the climax, while at the very end needlessly ambiguous to what may or may not be a twin or revenge or whatever (not that it detracts from the mood much), has also a spirit that goes aways to make this just a tinge more than what we're expecting, from the performances and the script.

It takes a little while to start, but once the halfway mark comes and Nicholson comes on the scene- in possibly his first significant bad-ass role- it improves into something like a precursor to the recent Seraphim Falls. An obscure, dated but interesting find from talented indie filmmakers.
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Not so straight forward as some seem to think
matthewmabey18 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
As I read the many reviews of "The Shooting" I am amazed at how "certain" some people are about their speculation while other people seem to completely miss the point of some aspects of the movie. It seems to me that you are supposed to be left guessing about many of the details. I.e. who, exactly, is the woman? and who shoots who in the end.

The performance of "the woman" is a very difficult role and done quite well by Millie Perkins. She is playing the part of a clearly troubled and emotionally unstable woman who at the same time is very focused, determined, and calculating about one objective. The fact that she is slight and girlish in appearance is an intentional contrast to the vicious objective on which she has focused. Whatever her history, she is not a "gunslinger."

The unknowns during the movie and the unanswered questions even at the end are completely intentional, I think. Reality isn't about being omniscient. Everyone lives and dies having known only part of the story they've lived through.

Some clues in the movie that I think have been missed by many are as follows: The woman is more disturbed than would seem to be appropriate for being simply distraught over the death of husband and child. She also exhibits some signs of having been sexually assaulted.

Will intentionally leaves a trail of flour for the woman following him. Why? He must have already known something about her and her objectives before he even talked to Coley.

Will's hand is injured. How and why?

Will was late getting back. He gives Coley an explanation, but it isn't very satisfactory.

Will's gun is missing. What's up with that? Again, the dialogue doesn't give a satisfactory explanation.

Why is it that the woman gets there so far ahead of the Sheriff?

Why did the woman kill her horse? The obvious answer of drawing Will and Coley to her assistance seems to be an awfully high stakes gamble against the odds.

Leland didn't seem to think he had anything to fear. So why did he get killed and Coley didn't (initially).

If Billy wanted to kill Coley, why didn't he do it the night he killed Leland?

Why wasn't Coin (Coan?) "running" faster and why did he trust the Bearded Man and yet leave him to die?

What did the Bearded man tell Coley?

What exactly was Coley trying to accomplish in the minutes leading up to his death?

One might notice that I've switched from clues to questions. If anyone thinks they have easy, or certain, answers to the questions or conclusion from the clues, then they are missing the point of the movie.

One last thing, pay careful attention to the colors of the horses and the horses legs.
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Maddeningly Evasive
Lechuguilla8 January 2007
Across a desert, two men and a mysterious woman make a mysterious journey. I'm not sure why. Explanations in this film are hard to come by. And the dialogue doesn't help. In one sequence one of the men inquires about a man whom the travelers come across just sitting on the ground in the desert: "Who is he?" Response: "Ask her". "You know him?" No response. "What does she mean to you?" Response: "She likes me". "You know anything about her?" Response: "Ask her".

I don't recall a film wherein the dialogue was so ... evasive. It's not like the film contains some profound message that requires great insight to dig up. Rather, the story comes across as simply having no point. The two men and the woman have no real back-story. Characters are not well developed. From the film's start to its finish, I kept wondering: who are these people, what are their motivations, what do they hope to accomplish? I never arrived at a satisfactory answer to any of these questions.

If the story is pointless, the desert scenery is hauntingly beautiful, especially toward the end. And the film's cinematography does a nice job of showing visual perspective, with tiny human figures set against huge, barren mountains.

The film's acting is acceptable, although Will Hutchins does a really fine job in his performance. Millie Perkins is miscast. With her little girl face, she is totally not convincing as a hardened female gunslinger.

"The Shooting" is a slow moving, low-key Western with some great visuals and a fine performance by Will Hutchins. But the story is pointless. It's the cinematic equivalent of a book wherein every other page is missing.
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"Gonna be a bunch of ugly work I tell 'ya."
classicsoncall27 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I guess if you want to talk yourself into believing this movie makes some sense you could do so. There are some well presented reviews here that make a pretty good case for it, but if it takes twisting yourself into a pretzel to make all the pieces fit, why wouldn't it be just as good an idea to have a story with a beginning, middle and an end?

I'll say one thing though, I've never seen a Western before where so many horses just disappear and reappear again. The woman (Millie Perkins) must have let the mule go free, but what happened to Coley's horse in the desert? Pretty convenient that there was a bearded old guy with a broken leg in the middle of the desert so Coley (Will Hutchins) could catch a ride again. And I'm not really sure why the woman's white horse that she shot for no reason wound up dying all over again - was that an editing mistake, a mirage, a delusion, what?

Having Jack Nicholson arrive looking all real strong and pretty was a nice touch, and I had to do a double take when he said it not once but twice - "You talking to me"? It makes perfect sense that Travis Bickle would have been inspired by gunslinger Billy Spear ten years later in "Taxi Driver". He would have been right at home in this picture.
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Woman With No Name
AaronCapenBanner17 November 2014
Monte Hellman directed this strikingly unique, original, yet experimental western that stars Millie Perkins as a mysterious woman with no revealed name who hires two cowboys named Willit & Coley(played by Warren Oates & Will Hutchins) to track down a man for mysterious reasons, though it appears to be Willit's brother who may have been involved in an accidental death with another cowboy who is later shot dead. Jack Nicholson costars as a cold-blooded gunfighter assisting the woman in the hunt, which leads them to the barren hot desert and a surprise ending, which will no doubt either intrigue or infuriate the viewer, but fine acting and direction keep it on track, especially by Perkins.
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Superby photographed, but...
JohnHowardReid23 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
According to the DVD's synopsis, the Jack Nicholson character is supposed to be the villain, but I found this statement far from convincing in the movie itself, particularly as the movie makes no mention as to why he is being sought out. Once again, we have to depend upon the DVD's synopsis rather than on what we are told by the characters in the film. Fortunately, the story's four principal players are stunningly photographed against a series of awesome natural settings, but even these begin to pall before the movie has run its course. All told, this is a somewhat pretentious western that tends to out-stay its welcome. Worst of all, it comes to a rather abrupt and most unsatisfying conclusion. Oddly, although as stated above, the motivation of the central character played by Millie Perkins remained a complete mystery to me from first to last, I see that it is actually spelled out on the liner notes to the excellent El Paso DVD, but I'm still not convinced. My feeling is that the producer simply ran out of money, and that's why the movie ends rather abruptly, literally in mid-flight.
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Weird desert-survival 60's Western with Jack Nicholson & Warren Oates
Wuchakk12 March 2014
"The Shooting" is an offbeat 1966 Western directed by Monte Hellman and written by Carole Eastman (using the pseudonym "Adrien Joyce"). The story involves two men (Warren Oates and Will Hutchins) who are hired by a mysterious woman (Millie Perkins) to accompany her to a town located many miles across the Utah desert. During their journey they are tracked and joined by a mysterious black-clad gunslinger (Jack Nicholson) who is known by the woman.

This early Nicholson vehicle is worthwhile if you have a taste for out-of-the-ordinary films. Millie Perkins is fetching and Will Hutchins is a convincing youngster sidekick while Oates is a good every-man protagonist and Nicholson just oozes quiet antagonism. It's easy too see how the 'kid' would be infatuated by the cutie, despite her dubiousness, but it's even easier to understand Willet's grave suspicions. The movie is also a must for anyone who likes lost-in-the-desert flicks.

While the ending seems nonsensical, the answers are there, if you look closely and chew on the details...

***SPOILER ALERT*** (Don't read this paragraph unless you've seen the film). As the story progresses it becomes clear that the woman is hunting Oates' brother who apparently killed a child or a midget, likely the woman's child, close friend or relative. When they finally catch up to him at the very end we discover that the supposed murderer is Willet's TWIN brother who looks exactly like him, which explains his name, Coin (as in, 'the other side of the coin'). Since this is so, why didn't the woman assume Willett (Oates) was the person who killed her child since he looks exactly like the one who did, Coin? Obviously she was informed that Coin had a twin brother living near the town and she felt he would be the best person to track the culprit. In any case, the twin brothers represent the duality of human nature: Willet symbolizes the good and positive side whereas Coin embodies the more destructive aspects of our nature. As such, the Gashade brothers symbolize the two converging sides of the existential coin pertaining to the human experience which come together with catastrophic results at the climax. ***END SPOILER***

Bottom line: "The Shooting" is a worthy bare-bones independent 60's Western with occasional flashes of surrealism and brilliance, as well as a lot of humdrum mundaneness (so be prepared for some slow, dull stretches). It's less straightforward than its sister film "Ride in the Whirlwind," which was made just before this one and on the same (or nearby) locations. Some have called it the first "acid Western" but I wouldn't go that far. It has some weird touches, but not too weird.

The film runs 82 minutes and was shot in Kanab, Utah.

GRADE: B/B- (6.5/10)
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Excellent, minimalist Western.
Hey_Sweden7 December 2014
Willett Gashade (the late, great Warren Oates) and Coley Boyard (Will Hutchins) are two cowboy associates, hired by a mysterious young woman (Millie Perkins) who refuses to give her name. The assignment, ostensibly, is to travel with her to a faraway town, but she's clearly got an agenda that bemuses them. The stakes get raised when a newcomer joins them on the journey: a hired gun named Billy Spear (Jack Nicholson), who similarly chooses to be rather cagey.

Under appreciated filmmaker Monte Hellman is just one of many who began his career working for the legendary Roger Corman. With Corman as the (uncredited) executive producer, and Nicholson and Hellman as producers, this was filmed simultaneously with another indie Western, "Ride in the Whirlwind", but released separately. It's a very spare film, with a minimum of major roles, and it's one that takes full advantage of some strikingly desolate locations.

Carole Eastmans' screenplay takes great care not to spell everything out for the viewer, although by the end it's not too hard to connect all the dots. The result is an intelligent, meticulously made film with a very enigmatic, and atmospheric, quality about it. Performances are superb from the star quartet. Oates has a quietly powerful presence. Hutchins is very animated and engaging. Some fans of the film don't care for Perkins, but this viewer feels that it's actually a testament to her ability since her character is clearly not trying to be likable; he can see that she's bearing some sort of grudge. And the young Nicholson, still a few years away from achieving genuine stardom, shows off that charisma that always served him so well. The ending, a slow motion shoot out among some rocks, is very stylishly done.

This is very much essential viewing for fans of the cast and director.

Eight out of 10.
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A Closer Look at Two Shaping Points
dougdoepke19 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
After 10 minutes of that forced march across a lunar landscape, I popped a six-pack, hoping it would be enough. It wasn't. One thing for sure, producer Corman and company got their meager money's worth. After all, how many other $1.50 movies provoke this kind of reviewer discussion 50-years later.

Now, I'm not going to recap the storyline (what there is of it) nor dwell on its details. Others have done that much better than I can. What I want to offer is a point of view that I think shapes much of the movie, and can be used to maybe understand better its maddeningly elliptical nature.

So which is the movie—profound, pretentious, maddening, boring, or maybe just plain puzzling. At the risk of seeming a mush brain, I think it's all of these. But I'm most in sympathy with those folks who paid to see a conventional western and got this elliptical trip through heck instead. One thing for sure, the dialogue only ate up about a nickel's worth of the total expense. But if the crew was so cramped for funds, I'm wondering how come they went on expensive location. Usually, these cheapo's would film guys riding around LA's scrublands and then into a studio cow town, and then be forgotten. Not so, here. Instead, it's a blinding tour of Utah's purgatory part. A perfect setting for what may or may not be a story.

Be sure to catch the first 15-minutes, because that's where most of the plot questions are dealt with to the extent that they are dealt with at all. The trouble is these hints at answers come before the questions, which causes confusion if you haven't paid close attention. And I should thank those reviewers who took time to clarify many of the more puzzling parts that slipped past me. Anyway, don't expect many answers from the long ride part, which is just that, a long ride and a lot of dead horses—a good, if unpleasant, touch given the heat and exposure.

Clearly, director Hellman and writer Easton have seen a batch of New Wave French movies. The influence here is clear. Theme predominates over story. I suspect that's why so many folks object to the film. Hollywood and commercial movies traditionally emphasized storyline above all, and if themes emerged, that was a bonus. Then too, conventional filmmaking didn't like to leave viewers with loose ends. Outstanding questions got wrapped up in the end, so the audience left unprovoked, with an optimistic view that things always turn out right in the end.

Now, I take the theme here—if there is one—to be an existential one of a particularly French variety. Anyway, if I recall my philosophy class correctly, existentialism means that existence precedes essence, or, at the risk of oversimplifying—sheer existence is basic-- all else like truth or personal identities are concocted afterwards. Now, in the movie, we're confronted with characters whose identities remain puzzling, especially the woman, Billie and the bearded man. Plus we know very little about Coley or Willett. Instead, we're simply confronted with their raw existence, in much the same way as Coley and Willett are confronted by the raw existence of the woman, Billie, and the bearded man. The fact that so little of the personal is explained means that interaction occurs between people who simply exist rather than people who are known to us.

What makes this generic brand of existentialism slant in a particularly French direction are two things. Among other points, the French philosopher J-P Sartre makes two pithy claims, namely that 'Hell is other people' and that 'life is absurd'. Clearly these two themes are not exactly game winners for commercial filmmakers. As to the former, however, given the constant badgering between the characters as they move through the hellish terrain, the first claim is at least suggested by the dour screenplay. Except for Willett's kindly gesture toward the dead Coley, there's precious little kindness among the travelers. And for the generally inoffensive Coley, hell really is other people.

As to Sartre's second claim, that life is meaningless, that's of course suggested by the ultra- bleak ending, as Billie staggers hopelessly down what can be taken as a brutal road of life to no apparent meaningful end. Ditto the others who perish in a similar lack of glory, and we wonder what's it all for. If this sounds pretty bleak, so is a movie that I can't imagine playing in a downtown theatre of the time.

Naturally, viewers don't have to take such claims as true of the real world in order to take the film as reflecting these philosophical points of view. Anyhow, I did find the movie interesting enough to think of it as shaped by these rather esoteric terms. Nonetheless, I certainly don't blame folks for reacting negatively to what I take as an exceptionally non-western western, and maybe even anti-movie movie. Meanwhile, I've got some empty six-packs to discard.
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Depressing idiotic ripoff of better westerns
drystyx22 June 2006
There is a fallacy among some critics that good acting can make a bad script into a good movie. That depends on how bad the script is. This was a totally terrible script. I can comment that the actors did a great job, and Will Hutchins outshone everybody. Surprisingly, it was Nicholson who gave the worst performance, but thats because his character was nothing more than a complete ripoff of Jack Palance's gunslinger in "Shane," to every movement and mannerism. The story is bewildering, to say the least. The woman who hires Oates to find the person who accidentally killed what is probably her son or brother, leaves no doubt as to her madness in the desert. So it is insane to think Oates would have gone along with her, much less dragged Hutchins with him, without having extra horses and water. Nothing makes sense in the film, which was the obvious intention, but the characters don't make sense, either. Particularly in their initial decisions to make an insane journey. Everything is quite predictable and utterly depressing. There is no entertainment value in this movie, whatsoever. And nothing learned. Rips off images and scenes from better westerns, and leaves the viewer asleep. Bomb.
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Amazing western. Amazing film. Suspenseful, starkly realistic, and full of great technique.
chiamrt19 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Amazing western. Amazing film. Suspenseful, starkly realistic, and full of great technique. Some stand out shots you should look for are 1.) the opening shot: a lone horse which seems to set the story up very appropriately seeing as horses and their limitations/dangers will fit somewhat prominently into the plot. It's also appropriate in that it represents a genre archetype of a typical western. This movie, however offbeat, is a very straightforward genre picture. 2.) The very poignant scene where from the point of view of just to the left of a grave marker we hear the character of Coley say "Maybe it was a child…" 3.) The chase scene in which Willet is chasing after Billy who is chasing after Coley who is trying to get within earshot of Willet. In this scene there is a shot where each man is of equal distance from the other two in a straight line with the men on each end right at the end of the frame on their respective sides and the center man (Billy) is perfectly centered in the frame. Beautiful shot! 4.) The closing shot of Billy walking alone that fades to blue/white. Beautiful and poignant ending. This movie is the best western I've seen in a long time despite its obviously low budget. That being said…the DVD had horrible sound quality! -AdamDriggers
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Crabnebula191415 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Many people have branded this film slow, and boring, calling it an anti-western. I'm open minded, willing to hear anyones opinion but I whole heartedly disagree with the false accusations that have been thrown at this unique film. The Shooting is a brave movie, its got a naturalistic approach while being a surreal, stark mood piece, rich in atmosphere. Of course there are certain shortcomings due to the shoestring budget but in a way that adds to the overall minimalist approach that Hellman was going for. It has the aesthetics of a conventional western revenge tale with a new modern twist. I just feel like people watch westerns expecting to see, John Ford, Sam Peckinpah or Sergio Leone influence forgetting that the genre as a whole is not as one dimensional as some people see it. Westerns are wonderful films, completely native to American film making and Hellmans aim was to make something different, The Shooting is a product of originality and I urge people to give it another viewing!!! P.S. If you wanna see more action Hellmans "Ride in the Whirlwind" was filmed alongside with The Shooting
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Not sure I get it, but I sure do like it!
jmiller-330 March 1999
Warning: Spoilers
What is going on in this film??? I've watched The Shooting three times now, and I still don't fully understand it. Who is this woman? How are she and Billy related? Why does she want to kill Gashade's brother? Why does Gashade help her track his brother down?

The Shooting is a quick-paced, almost-surreal western. Watch it once to get its flavor. Watch it twice to figure out the plot. Then watch it a third time to figure out its message.

Are Billy and the Woman brother and sister? Lovers? Did Gashade's brother kill the Woman's son? Does Gashade want her to kill his brother? Is his brother a symbolic projection of his "dark half?" Or is the author of this review over-analyzing a low-budget western? Watch for yourself and make up your own mind...
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Perkins has got to go
jonathan-57716 March 2007
One of Hellman's 'existential' genre flicks from the 60s-70s cusp. Warren Oates and his skittish cohort Will Hutchins are hired by Millie Perkins (the star of "The Diary of Anne Frank") to help her navigate the desert to the next urban centre, or so she says. Soon she is joined by sharpshooter Jack Nicholson, who keeps the boys in line until the surprise ending. There are a lot of neat twists on western convention here - the woman is urbane and sickly, Hutchins is completely incompetent, and as they battle each other everyone is battling the desert as it grinds em down. Unfortunately, several rock solid performances are arrayed around the stilted and extremely irritating Perkins, who is so unappealing that you don't know what everybody sees in her. It's quite majestic for such a tiny-scaled movie, with some truly memorable images, but I also found it more portentous than the content justified, ultimately. The ending is pretty abrupt. Admittedly the sound on my VHS is atrocious which didn't help. Still pretty far out for a low budget western, and enough rewards to at least mitigate the drags.
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Why was Jack Nicholson employable after this?
howlandowl8 January 2001
Director Monte Hellman has been lauded for shooting two movies at the same time for the rumored price of $150,000. An impressive feat, but a duplicatable one, as long as one isn't concerned about sound. Or plot. Or character development. As Hellman apparently wasn't when he made this film. The dialogue is often incomprehensible, especially unfortunate since this leaves us with a movie depending heavily on shots of people riding to carry it. The Shooting isn't even able to resolve the meagre elements of a plot it has. It sets up a reasonable premise, albeit excrutiatingly slowly, wherein this one guy somehow related to our heroes has been shot for inscrutiable reasons by persons unknown. And this mysterious girl comes along and hires our heroes to escort her to her destination. So they ride. And they ride. They ride for a long time. Boy howdy, do they ride! And then Jack Nicholson shows up and, wouldn't you know it, they ride some more! So we have a bunch of people that we don't really know anything about riding. And eventually, there's some fairly undramatic shooting, thinly living up to the promise of the title, an inexplicable slow motion sequence, and then, while resolving nothing in the process, the movie, mercifully, ends. At this stage, bafflement, followed by a slow sensation that one's better off not thinking about it, is normal.
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Waiting for Gashade?
lot4923 June 2001
This cryptic movie is a Samuel Beckett play set in the southwest. It's "Waiting for Godot" with Stetsons instead of bowlers. Unfortunately, the dialogue is often unintelligible. Watch it at home with the TV's sound off and some suitable music playing on your stereo.

Will Hutchins is Sugarfoot on acid. A young Warren Oates manages to display a glimmer of his talent. Millie Perkins makes me wish that the Nazis would take her away. (She played Anne Frank in George Stevens' 1959 movie.)

As for Smilin' Jack... Had he continued to make movies like this one, Jack Nicholson would be an anonymous Lakers fan sitting in the cheap seats 50 yards from center court.

In some respects, "The Shooting" is "Easy Rider" without motorcycles, sex, drugs or rock 'n roll.
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