I haven’t seen many Westerns over the years. In fact, this is likely the second true Western that I’ve seen when you don’t count titles that aren’t primarily in the genre. It’s definitely an interesting genre but one that is immensely difficult to succeed in due to the nature of the era. It was a lawless time with a lot of violence and bandits running around. The times were also primitive which runs the risk of animal violence and people messing around with one night stands. This film does get tripped up in those details but at least it’s a fairly fun adventure. I won’t call it a good movie, but it could have been a whole lot worse.
It doesn’t waste any time in setting up the plot as it starts with the Jed getting attacked by a group of guys on horseback who decide to hang him. They do think that he murdered someone and he doesn’t make a great case against it, but naturally taking the law into your hands isn’t the answer. Especially in this case as they decide to beat him before the hanging. Jed is rescued by someone who takes him to get publicly hanged, but then the sheriff clears up the misunderstanding and finds out that the main character was actually a cop. It was a rather painful misunderstanding but I imagine it may have been common back in the day. Jet is given an opportunity to be a marshal so he can legally get revenge on his attackers. The only clause in the contract is that he has to bring them in alive and naturally he has to deal with other crimes as well. Jed agrees to the terms but may have bitten off more than he can chew with this assignment.
While the opening scene gave me some hope as the main character saved a baby cow, the film later went back on this as we see a few dead animals. A dog also meets a similar fate. These scenes contributed nothing to the plot by the way. It was added simply to be there and that’s the problem. Many scenes like this are added with no real purpose or point to add to the story and it’s because the film makers don’t see anything wrong with it. It has cost many films a good score and doesn’t help this one’s case.
The plot of the film is simple enough. Jed has to take down 9 attempted murderers who are on the run. The problem is that the film then realized that it needed to stretch this adventure out to around 2 hours so they added a bunch of filler plots that take away from the mission. The film should have just stayed on task even if it meant being a little shorter. The padding only weakens the film even if the concept isn’t half bad. Becoming a marshal just to get revenge is something I can certainly imagine happening.
Jed is a solid lead who gets the job done. He may have lost the opening fight but he was badly outnumbered and wasn’t even expecting to be attacked since he thought they were fellow fighters on the side of justice. That being said, you shouldn’t really trust anyone in the Wild West. Once he is given the badge Jed has the edge on all of his attackers. He isn’t afraid to be alone with the prisoners as he transports them back to camp and isn’t intimidated by anyone either. He’ll speak his mind in any situation and is also a quick shot.
While the main character was solid for the most part, he does randomly have a scene where he becomes a typical lead who loses sight of his goal and gives in to a one night stand instead of getting back to the mission. Jed has to lose some points for that moment and it’s little scenes like this where the film loses its credibility. I’d say that I enjoyed the main character overall but take away that scene and he would have basically been perfect.
The film is fairly violent so keep that in mind while watching it. The opening scene should tip you off to that as they hang Jed in a rather detailed fashion. Fortunately the wound does eventually dry out. Surprisingly the shooting scenes were typically less violent. It’s a violent film, but not really a dark one. For the most part the film does keep a rather upbeat tone. The writing is also pretty solid as the characters make their cases. We even got a court room scene but of course the whole thing was rather rigged so Jed couldn’t do much to stop it the judge from executing the kids. The kids were crooks, but it was a rather minor offense though they did become accessories. It was another tough part of the wild west since it was tough to afford a space in a jail for someone to be kept for life. Every era has its share of mishaps, but this one definitely had a bunch of them. So at the very least this film isn’t hard to watch. It’s reasonably entertaining and certainly ends up being a film that you would expect of Clint Eastwood. It just brings in the bad with the good.
Overall, This film was fairly decent but just lost sight of its overall plot by the end and should have focused more on catching the 9 offenders. The film even ran out of time by the end with how they quickly rushed the last group of guys together. Throw away some of the subplots and cut down on the time other scenes took and then it would have been better focused. Still, if you like the Wild West genre a lot then this should be a good film for you. It has a tough lead, gunfights, and overall feels like a true western. If the gene isn’t enough to get you excited, then you’re probably better off with a more loose take on the Wild West like Trigun. That film keeps the backdrop while throwing in some Sci-Fi.