Them Bishop boys are coming for you? You don't need a gunslinger. You need a goddamn regiment.
Jane Got a Gun is directed by Gavin O'Connor and collectively written by Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis and Joel Edgerton. It stars Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, Boyd Holbrook and Rodrigo Santoro. Music is by Marcello De Francisci and Lisa Gerrard and cinematography is by Mandy Walker.
Jane Hammond (Portman) has to turn to her ex lover, Dan Frost (Edgerton), for help when it's revealed that the notorious Bishop gang are heading her way in search of her husband Bill (Emmerich).
It's going to be one of those films more talked about for what it could have been than what it is. Changes in production staff were unbound, from director, writer, photographer and some big name cast changes, it was a production blighted and destined to be on a loser. It hasn't helped that with it being a slow paced character based picture, and a Western at that, the market for a fan base was already running low on potential supporters. So what we left with?
It undoubtedly is one for hard core Western fans only, it's hard to envisage newcomers entering into the genre for the first time, perhaps lured by the casting of Portman, being won over to the point of seeking out other classic Westerns of past and present. Yet it's got a lot going for it, because if you have the want, then it may just take a second viewing to fully absorb and enjoy.
At its core it's a straight Oater of redemption, opportunities waylaid by fate, and of course a good old good versus bad axis. Relying on a flashback structure to set up the character dynamics, it can get a bit disorientating at times, hence the shout out for a second viewing. However, it may not be the perfect way to build the principal characters, but they are worth the investment for there's a big emotional pull there.
Having laid the foundation for the first two thirds of the pic, we shift to good old honest violence, for siege read backs against the wall, and not without invention, in fact there's much resourcefulness on show, with Jane at times very much leading the way. The last third pays off handsomely, even if there's the (arguably) inevitable sugar coated candy to swallow as part of the final deal. Cast are dandy and turning in perfs of note, though it needed more of McGregor's John Bishop, because with what little he gets he does make a villainous mark.
It looks terrific, Walker's photography bringing to mind the genre work of Roger Deakins, with the New Mexico locations blistering in their beauty, and while the sound mix for dialogue exchanges is a little poor, the musical score is thumping in its tonal appreciations. It's tricky to recommend with confidence even to Western fans, especially in a year when "Jane" had to compete with the more rambunctious Magificent Seven reboot, but give it a chance if you liked something like Slow West, and you may just be pleasantly surprised. 7/10
McGregor's John Bishop
What a pity then, that life is what we do, and not just what we feel.
Based on a story by artist Tom Lea (who cameos as a barber), The Wonderful Country stars Robert Mitchum, Julie London, Gary Merrill, Charles McGraw & Pedro ArmendÃ¡riz. It's directed by Robert Parrish, the score is from Alex North with Floyd Crosby & Alex Phillips on cinematography around the Durango location shoot.
A rich western that admirably crams in a lot of genre based themes and boasts a lead protagonist of high complex value. Tightly directed by Parrish (Saddle The Wind), who is aware that this needs no action overkill, it's really with Mitchum and Robert Ardrey's script that the film owes its success. Give or take a couple of missteps with the accent (he is playing a gringo pistolero) Mitchum dominates with his stature and laconic form of acting. He's playing Martin Brady, a man who finds himself being pulled emotionally on both sides of the Mexican/American border, the contrast between both lands, and Brady's persona too (he's effectively a man without a country), is very interesting. There's a number of well drawn characters who file in and out of Brady's life, all serving purpose to the plot, with Julie London's love interest thankfully having a more darker edge than others that were often seen in the genre. There's even an appearance of Baseball Hall Of Fame inductee Leroy 'Satchel' Paige as part of an all black army regiment. Yet another strand in this multi angled movie.
Very sedate in tone but with deep character drama at its core, Parrish's film is a thinking persons movie. Some critics have called it routine, while others have said it's complicated! I just think it's a film that needs to be watched more than once to fully digest its themes. It's not one for the action fan as such, but it is excellently written and performed by the principals. It's also a truly gorgeous movie visually and aurally. A fine film that rewards further on repeat viewings, especially for fans of the great Robert Mitchum. 7/10
Robert Mitchum is......Man With The Gun.
Clint Tollinger arrives in a small town looking for his estranged wife and news of his daughter, tho he finds her, the chance of any sort of reconciliation is very slim. Whilst here, the sheriff and the important townsfolk learn of Tollinger's reputation as a pistol specialist town tamer. As they are living in fear of a mysterious landowner who is stripping the town from them bit by bit, they hold a meeting that chooses to hire Tollinger to rid the town of it's unsavoury elements.
Man With The Gun seems to be either a forgotten piece or a vastly under seen one, for at the time of me writing this, it has just over 200 votes and a paltry 9 user comments written for it on IMDb. It's a shame on either score because although the production values scream out that this is a "B" movie Western, this is a fine entry in the Western genre. That the piece takes on a rather standard plot theme of an harangued town turning to an avenging dark angel, probably hasn't done the film any favours over the years, I myself read the synopsis and thought it's just another in the line of similarly themed pictures. Yet I was pleasantly surprised to find a darkly dramatic picture boasting many enjoyable moments, both technically and as a functioning story.
Robert Mitchum is in the lead as Tollinger, perfectly cast, he strides thru the picture like some brooding menace. We often talk about the screen presence that John Wayne and Charlton Heston had (justifiably of course), Mitchum is right up there with the best of them. One sequence here sees him standing in the shadows at the back of a room as a meeting takes place, we don't see his face, but we can feel that piercing brood staring out at us! The rest of the cast are very much in Mitchum's shadow, so really it's solely with the big man that the films acting credentials are high. Perhaps it's unfair to single out Ted de Corsia for a kick? but Man With The Gun's minor failings are with its villains, and sadly de Corsia is lacking any sort of villainesque menace.
The score from Alex North is excellently layered (fans of Spartacus will certainly be pricking their ears up) and the cinematography from Lee Garmes is highly impressive when one realises that the majority of this picture was shot on the studio lot. Directed and co-written by first time director Richard Wilson, Man With The Gun holds few surprises for the genre, but it's dark in tone, violent and above all else, highly watchable. 7.5/10
Cruze Missile and the Three of Spades.
The Lone Gun is directed by Ray Nazarro and written by Don Martin, Richard Schayer and L. L. Freeman. It stars George Montgomery, Dorothy Malone, Neville Brand, Frank Faylen, Skip Homeier, Robert Wilke, Douglas Kennedy and Fay Roope. Music is by Irving Getz and cinematography by Lester White (color by Color Corporation of America).
"The history of any frontier region . . . such as the great expanses of the new State of Texas . . . offered many examples of the strange way in which a few men of great evil could dominate whole communities of well meaning, but passive citizens...
...And examples, too, of men who rode out alone for law and order, with badges on their vests and handcuffs in their pockets . . . playing a lone gun against great odds"
It is pretty much as one would expect for a 50s "B" Western, there's nothing remotely new here, it's a good old honest Oater where a good man takes up a law badge in a town that doesn't deserve him, he takes on the bad guys and there's a pretty lady on his mind. Cue fisticuffs and shootings (including a particularly cold blooded murder), some nifty ambush sequences, a tension packed poker game and some neat dialogue - "one yell and you'll be waking up in a devil's cookhouse".
Cast are fine, with Montgomery doing his usual reliable and likable guy act, Brand doing another in his line of scumbags - backed by Kennedy and Wilke, and even though she's saddled with the token lady role that's sparsely written, Malone leaves a nice impression regardless. Bonus is Faylen, who as card conman Fairweather, shines in a cheeky chappie role, with quips and a glint in his eye even when he's in danger, Faylen enjoys himself in creating this fun character. Some good stunt work rounds it out as a safe and enjoyable Oater for fans of such. 6.5/10
Tidbib: Bizarrely the end credits have Wilke and Kennedy listed as playing each others roles?!
I could mention in passing that I watched the movie Saturday, after seeing Liverpool crash and burn out of yet another cup competition to a lower division club at Anfield. My frame of reference may have been compromised.
You are either with us or you are dead!
Gun Duel in Durango is directed by Sidney Salkow and written by Louis Stevens. It stars George Montgomery, Ann Robinson, Steve Brodie, Bobby Clark, Frank Ferguson, Don Barry, Henry Rowland and Denver Pyle. Music is by Paul Sawtell and Berts Shefter and cinematography by Maury Gertsman.
Standard 50s Oater as per formulaic story, but it's spiritedly played and it's not without emotional hefts. Story has Montgomery as Will Sabre, who has had enough of the outlaw life and quits the gang that are titled in his name. Only the gang wont let him quit and he has 30 days to change his mind or else! Not good since under an alias he's landed a nice job in Durango, become a surrogate father to an orphan, and if he can stay straight he'll get the hand of his honey, Judy (Robinson).
It starts with a callous murder and from there we are in no doubt that the one time Sabre Gang, now the Dunsten (Brodie) Gang, are bad dudes and Will Sabre (alias Dan) has his hands full from a number of angles. It's the various active threads that keep the pic from falling into mediocre hell, with Montgomery finding believable chemistry with both Robinson and young Clark. Action scenes are well staged, the Simi Valley and Chatsworth locales are nicely present and Gertsman's crisp black and white photography is most pleasant.
No surprises in store but this is above average and better than the plot would suggest. 6.5/10
I seek righteousness. But I'll take revenge.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk. Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett and Peter Sarsgard. Music is by Simon Franglen (also working from a James Horner template) and cinematography by Mauro Fiore.
Seven gunmen band together to aid the town of Rose Creek whose inhabitants are being driven out by ruthless capitalist Bartholomew Bogue.
We are now in an age of film making where "tagged classics" are no longer sacrosanct. Any number of these "tagged classics" have been and will become viable for remake - reboot - reimaging for newer audiences. It's here, it happens and really there's nothing we can do about it but moan amongst ourselves. John Sturges' 1960 The Magnificent Seven (itself a remake of Kurosawa pic Yojimbo) is a much loved film, and not just in Western lovers circles, it's a film that non Western fans are known to enjoy - and rightly so, it deserves its place as a "tagged classic" and still enthrals over 50 years since its release. So the big studio big wigs and Antoine Fuqua were taking a major gamble remaking a classic remake with their own remake!
Undeniably the shadows loom large over the 2016 version, so much weight of expectation, in fact to some it was a stinker of a film even before it was released! Well, as those who have seen it will attest, both the fans and the dissenters, it hasn't raised the bar for the "Seven" formula, but, and this is very key here, the makers wasn't setting out to make a film that down the line would be perceived as a "tagged classic", and this is evident in the ream of extras available on the Blu-ray releases. They achieved what they set out to do, to make a blunderbuss Oater for the modern era to sample, and they have done it with much love, much cool and lashings of technical greatness. Add in a cast clearly enjoying themselves and not letting anyone down, and it's a tasty plate of beans.
Fuqua updates things by having his seven as a row of differing ethnicity's, which works a treat, and crucially he and his writers are respectful of those characterisations, even if a bit more fleshing out wouldn't have gone amiss. Yet nothing is at a cost to honouring the great Westerns of old. Beautiful landscapes envelope the players, the musical score bouncing around man and nature with homaged sweetness. There's closeups, silhouetted slices of panache, superb stunt work (man and beast), glorious set design, and then there's the action. The fight sequences are excellently constructed, a feast for the eyes and ears, death and slaughter unfurled in brutal but hunger appeasing strokes. There's comic relief about the place, and while much of the dialogue wouldn't have the great poets of yore troubled, there is deepness to be found. Intelligence, too, the addition of PTSD to one of the main players is a notable piece of worth, while how wonderful to find a Western lady character of great substance (Bennett excellent), so good in fact she could have been one of the seven!
It's a bare bones story, with a pointless motive revelation tagged on for the finale, while some anachronisms will irritate those bothered by such. But if you are able to judge it on its own terms, as a Western entertainment for this era, and to accept it isn't trying to outdo the source of its inspiration, then a good time can readily be had. 8/10
Hopefully will have a site found before IMDb explodes. I'll be in touch.