Film Review – UNFORGIVEN (1992)

Unforgiven (1992; USA; Technicolor; 131m) ****½  d. Clint Eastwood; w. David Webb Peoples; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Lennie Niehaus.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris, Saul Rubinek, Frances Fisher, Rob Campbell, Anthony James, Shane Meier, Jaimz Woolvett, Anna Levine, David Mucci, Tara Frederick, Liisa Repo-Martell, Beverley Elliott. A retired Old West gunslinger reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man. Eastwood’s revisionist Western strips away the old mythology surrounding the gunfighters and the lawmen, delivering the vulnerable and violent reality of killing. The film is perfectly paced to capture the nuances in the script and the performances of a wonderful cast, with Hackman, Harris, Freeman and Eastwood all turning in note perfect interpretations. Gentle acoustic score by Niehaus adds melancholy to the mix.  Winner of four Oscars: Best Picture; Actor in a Supporting Role (Hackman); Director and Film Editing. Only the third Western to ever win the Best Picture Oscar. The other two being DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) and CIMARRON (1931). The final screen credit reads, “Dedicated to Sergio and Don”, referring to Eastwood’s mentors, Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. [15]

Book Review – AN OBVIOUS FACT (2016) by Craig Johnson

AN OBVIOUS FACT by CRAIG JOHNSON (2016; Penguin; 318pp) ***
An Obvious Fact by Craig JohnsonBlurbIn the midst of the largest motorcycle rally in the world, a young biker is run off the road and ends up in critical condition. When Sheriff Walt Longmire and his good friend Henry Standing Bear are called to Hulett, Wyoming—the nearest town to America’s first national monument, Devils Tower—to investigate, things start getting complicated. As competing biker gangs; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; a military-grade vehicle donated to the tiny local police force by a wealthy entrepreneur; and Lola, the real-life femme fatale and namesake for Henry’s ’59 Thunderbird (and, by extension, Walt’s granddaughter) come into play, it rapidly becomes clear that there is more to get to the bottom of at this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally than a bike accident. After all, in the words of Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Adventures of Sherlock Holmes the Bear won’t stop quoting, ”There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
The twelfth novel in Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series is an entertaining read, but shows signs of complacency setting in. Johnson writes engaging characters and witty dialogue, but there is something a little blase about the way they go about their business in this story. The humour is turned up and the thrills turned down and everything feels a little comfortable. The mystery itself isn’t as engaging as the plots in earlier books either. and the whole thing is wrapped up rather conveniently in the epilogue. That said I was never bored and this is probably the fastest and easiest read in the series – the novellas and short stories excepted – just not very challenging. Hopefully, this is not the beginning of a downward turn and The thirteenth novel, The Western Star, will be a return to form.

The Walt Longmire Series:

The Cold Dish (2004) ****
Death Without Company (2006) ****
Kindness Goes Unpunished (2007) ****
Another Man’s Moccasins (2009) ****
The Dark Horse (2010) ****
Junkyard Dogs (2010) *****
Hell is Empty (2011) ****
As the Crow Flies (2012) ****
A Serpent’s Tooth (2013) ****
Spirit of Steamboat (2013 – novella) ****
Any Other Name (2014) ****½
Wait for Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories (2014 – short story collection) ****
Dry Bones (2015) ****
The Highwayman (2016 – novella) ***½
An Obvious Fact (2016) ***
The Western Star (2017)

TV Review – LONGMIRE – SEASON 6 FINALE (TV) (2017)

Longmire – Season 6 Finale (TV) (2017; USA; Colour; 72m) ****  pr. Brad Davis, Bryan J. Raber; d. Christopher Chulack; w. Hunt Baldwin; ph. Todd Dos Reis; m. David Shephard.  Cast: Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Cassidy Freeman, Adam Bartley, A Martinez, Zahn McClarnon, Louanne Stephens, Barry Sloane, Graham Greene.  Nighthorse’s problems at the casino escalate. Walt gets an unexpected visitor that helps him with is search for Malachi. Nighthorse is betrayed. An inevitable confrontation leads to lives changed. Ferg tries to mend his relationship with Meg. A long awaited relationship blooms. Satisfying and crowd-pleasing finale to what has been a great modern western series that survived being axed by the network (A&E) after three seasons to see three more with Netflix thanks to a fan campaign. This last season, and this episode in particular, seems to have been written to provide a fan-friendly climax and some of the elements felt a little rushed in the wrap-up. But it is rare these days that a series gets the opportunity to do right by its characters and its audience. No plot strand is left loose and there are many poignant moments. In truth these days, with so many channels and programmers, it is very difficult to keep a series fresh, but this one never outstayed its welcome. Based on the excellent Walt Longmire mysteries written by Craig Johnson. [15]

Film Review – THE WILD BUNCH (1969)

Image result for the wild bunch 1969Wild Bunch, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 145m) ****½  d. Sam Peckinpah; w. Walon Green, Sam Peckinpah, Roy N. Sickner; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Jerry Fielding.  Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Strother Martin, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Jaime Sanchez, L.Q. Jones, Emilio Fernandez, Albert Dekker, Bo Hopkins, Dub Taylor, Paul Harper, Jorge Russek. An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the “traditional” American West is disappearing around them. Ultra-violent statement from Peckinpah symbolising the passing of the Old West and the introduction of modern warfare. Immaculately shot and edited with a percussive doom-laden score by Fielding. Veterans Holden and Ryan in particular are superb and are well supported by a strong stalwart cast. Opening and closing shootouts are brutal. [18]

Book Review – THE REDEEMERS (2015) by Ace Atkins

THE REDEEMERS by ACE ATKINS (2015, Corsair, 370pp) ∗∗∗∗

Blurb: He is only in his early thirties, but now Quinn Colson is jobless – voted out of office as sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, thanks to the machinations of county kingpin Johnny Stagg. He has offers, in bigger and better places, but before he goes, he’s got one more job to do – bring down Stagg’s criminal operations for good. At least that’s the plan. But in the middle of the long, hot summer, a trio of criminals stage a bold, wall-smashing break-in at the home of a local lumber mill owner, making off with a million dollars in cash from his safe, which is curious, because the mill owner is wealthy – but not that wealthy. None of this has anything to do with Colson, but during the investigation, two men are killed, one of them the new sheriff. His friend, acting sheriff Lillie Virgil, and a dangerous former flame, Anna Lee Stevens, both ask him to step in, and reluctantly he does, only to discover that that safe contained more than just money – it held secrets. Secrets that could either save Colson – or destroy him once and for all.

The fifth novel in Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series is the closest the author has come to emulating one of his writing heroes – Elmore Leonard. The story is populated with the type of characters Leonard employed in many of his crime novels set in the modern west. The plot itself is slight, being centred around a robbery, but the character interaction, double-crossing and the bigger picture of Colson’s mission to put Johnny Stagg behind bars keep the pages turning. Atkins has a great handle on his characters and embellishes them through their salty dialogue. Whilst the plot itself reaches a conclusion, some of the domestic threads that have ran through the series are left loose. there is also a signal in the series taking a change of direction in its final pages. Another strong addition to an excellent series.

Film Review – SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956)

Image result for seven men from nowSeven Men from Now (1956; USA; Colour; 78m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Budd Boetticher; w. Burt Kennedy; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Henry Vars.  Cast: Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed, John Larch, Don ‘Red’ Barry, Fred Graham, John Beradino, John Phillips, Chuck Roberson, Stuart Whitman, Pamela Duncan. Ex-sheriff Ben Stride tracks the seven men who held up a Wells Fargo office and killed his wife. Tightly directed Western with Scott in fine form as the brooding ex-sheriff and Marvin also excellent as a chancer looking to profit. Scenic photography and the smitten Russell add to the ingredients, making this one of the finest of the star and directors’ collaborations. [PG]

Film Review – THE HOLLOW POINT (2016)

Image result for the hollow point 2016Hollow Point, The (2016; USA; Colour; 97m) ∗∗  d. Gonzalo López-Gallego; w. Nils Lyew; ph. José David Montero; m. Juan Navazo.  Cast: Patrick Wilson, Ian McShane, James Belushi, Lynn Collins, John Leguizamo, Nathan Stevens, Michael Flynn, Karli Hall, Heather Beers. A new sheriff of a small town along the U.S. & Mexico border investigates a drug cartel deal that went horribly wrong. Dark, violent modern Western. Efficiently made but the sensationalist script leaves us with no-one to root for and there is little in terms of scope outside of its formulaic chase thriller premise. McShane fails to convince as a Texas sheriff and Wilson struggles to hit the right note as his deputy. [15]

Film Review – THE LONG CHASE (1972) (TV)

Image result for alias smith and jones season 3Long Chase, The (TV) (1972; USA; Technicolor; 74m) ∗∗½  d. Alexander Singer; w. Roy Huggins (as John Thomas James), Dick Nelson; ph. Gene Polito; m. John Andrew Tartaglia, Pete Rugolo.  Cast: Ben Murphy, Roger Davis, J.D. Cannon, Rod Cameron, Buddy Ebsen, Marie Windsor, James Drury, Laurie Ferrone, Dave Garroway, George Keymas, Frank Sinatra Jr., Larry Storch, Sally Field. This is actually three episodes (“The Long Chase”, “High Lonesome Country”, and “The Clementine Ingredient”) of the classic wild west cowbuddy show of the Seventies Alias Smith and Jones edited into one TV movie. Two reformed criminals are constantly on the run from the law. The story strands are loose and clumsily edited, but there is still undeniable charm in the characters. [PG]

Film Review – BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)

Image result for butch cassidy blu-rayButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969; USA; DeLuxe; 110m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. George Roy Hill; w. William Goldman; ph. Conrad L. Hall; m. Burt Bacharach.  Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, Cloris Leachman, Jeff Corey, George Furth, Kenneth Mars, Ted Cassidy, Donnelly Rhodes, Jody Gilbert, Timothy Scott, Don Keefer. Two Western bank/train robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close. Newman and Redford establish a charismatic chemistry and make the most of Goldman’s witty screenplay. Hill’s direction is spot-on capturing the end of an era in the American West through his use of visual dynamics emphasised by Hall’s evocative cinematography. One of the great Westerns that bears repeated viewings. Sam Elliott’s feature film debut. Won Oscars for Screenplay, Cinematography, Music and Song for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. Followed by a prequel BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS (1979). [PG]

Film Review – ALIAS SMITH AND JONES (1970)


Alias Smith and Jones
(TV) (1971; USA; Colour; 73m) ∗∗∗½  d. Gene Levitt; w. Glen A. Larson, Douglas Heyes; ph. John M. Stephens; m. Billy Goldenberg.  Cast: Pete Duel, Ben Murphy, Forrest Tucker, Susan Saint James, James Drury, Jeanette Nolan, Earl Holliman, Dennis Fimple, Bill Fletcher, John Russell, Charles Dierkop, Bill McKinney, Sid Haig. A pair of outlaws seeking amnesty from the Governor must stay incognito and out of trouble in a town while a friend pleads their case. The wait is complicated by a lovely bank manager and the arrival of members of their former gang. Light-hearted spin on BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID coasts on the charm of Duel and Murphy who are backed by a strong guest cast. Holliman scores as dim-witted gang leader. Pilot for subsequent TV series (1971-73), which ran for three seasons and 50 episodes with Roger Davis replacing Duel midway through second season following the actor’s tragic suicide. [PG]