An ex-bounty hunter reluctantly helps a wealthy landowner and his henchmen track down a Mexican revolutionary leader.An ex-bounty hunter reluctantly helps a wealthy landowner and his henchmen track down a Mexican revolutionary leader.An ex-bounty hunter reluctantly helps a wealthy landowner and his henchmen track down a Mexican revolutionary leader.
How many times have we seen it, don't mess with Clint! After the highly significant cop thriller "Dirty Harry", he returned to the western foray with not-so forcible results. "Joe Kidd" is what you can call, one of Eastwood's lesser westerns, but I actually enjoyed it. Maybe that's because I knew very little about it and I wasn't expecting anything revolutionary, but I found this little slam-bang western to be an earnest vehicle for Eastwood, which has a capable supporting cast in Robert Duvall, Don Stroud and John Saxon and in the director's chair is John Sturges. With those names involved it could have been much more, but it's not all a waste.
I thought that it started off unusually and far from your typical Eastwood western. It's quite unpredictable and it's laced with a lot quick-witted humour, but when it gets into its groove with the journey part of the story. Then it falls into a systematic pattern. There's nothing overly dynamic about it, but since it's quite a short flick it goes by quick enough without any meandering sequences. We get an even amount of humorous wisecracks, sturdy action set pieces and a steam-rolling climax for the undemanding. The performances are extremely good as the main characters are very egotistical. Eastwood provides his causal persona in the lead role, although this character seems to have a little more spruce and morality in his actions than that cynical edge we come to love. Duvall is influentially striking as the snaky villain Frank Harlan. Saxon is a superb character actor and that translates into his minor performance of Louis Chama. Don Stroud, Paul Koslo and Stella Garcia were more than decent too.
The consciousness story by Elmore Leonard is rather weakly drawn-up with very little in the way development and little to pushy in it's unjustifiable moral high ground. Although I loved the ironic judge, jury and executioner symbolism that fate has in-stored for the main villain. Sturges' direction won't blow you away, but it was a competent display and he manages to incorporate the sublime backdrop of the High Sierras with on spot, open location photography. There are many well-placed angle shots and leeway in its execution. Another facet that was surprising was Lalo Schifrin's distinctively, pulsating score that's never over-powering, but it was always there.
You might forget all about this western after a day or two, but with these class people involved in this production, just expect some captivating, light entertainment. I found it satisfying enough, but Eastwood would go onto better things a year later with the cruel, spell-binding "High Plains Drifter".
- Jun 25, 2006