The Summer of Western Research™ begins to wrap up with a few oldies but goodies.
Gone Baby Gone (2007) Dennis Lehane has the gift of knowing exactly who to sell hisbooks to in order to have the best movie made. Ben Affleck directed and co-wrote the screenplay from what Lehane says is the best of the Kenzie-Gennaro novels. Affleck stays true to the source material in tone and uses as much of Lehane’s sterling dialog as he can afford to without making a mini-series. No one thought Casey Affleck could pull Patrick Kenzie off, but he did so admirably. Amy Ryan is beyond good in an Oscar-nominated performance. (Tilda Swinton won for Michael Clayton.) The supporting cast of Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Michele Monahan, Amy Madigan, Titus Welliver, and John Ashton is as good as you’d expect from that crew, which is to say excellent. As successful an adaptation of a book as one is going to find, and from an excellent book, no less. Highest recommendation.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) Stupid fun that knewit was stupid fun, and that made all the difference. Unlike a lot of more recent movies—a lot—that present impossible acts in impossible situations way too seriously, Buckaroo Banzai makes no excuses: None of this has ever happened, nor will it ever. Just embrace the craziness and have fun. I did.
The Professionals (1966) I saw this one in a theater instead of watching the first SuperBowl, which shows a lot less about how bad I wanted to see it than how little respect the Super Bowl had in those days. Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Woody Strode, and Robert Ryan play guns for hire who contract out to a railroad magnate (Ralph Bellamy) to rescue his wife (Claudia Cardinale) from the Mexican bandit who kidnapped her (Jack Palance). Great action, just the right amount of fun, and, of course, things aren’t what they looked to be at the beginning. The film’s attitude is summed up in the final lines, after Bellamy calls Marvin a bastard. Marvin’s reply: “In my case an accident of birth. You, sir, are a self-made man.”
Valdez is Coming (1971) Part Two of a Burt Lancaster double feature. This time Lancasterplays Bob Valdez, a constable on a border town who has to kill a black soldier he finds out later was not the one who allegedly killed a white man. Bob wants the man responsible for the mistake to pay $100—which the town’s other businessmen will match—to aid the dead man’s woman. What follows is a little like a Western version of Richard Stark’s The Hunter, as Bob wreaks havoc across the desert, never asking for more than the hundred bucks. Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, this is a fine example of an early post-Wild Bunch Western.
Wyatt Earp (1994) I liked this better while watching it than I did a few days later. LawrenceKasdan does a nice job of capturing a pretty close account of Wyatt Earp’s (Kevin Costner) life up through the O.K. Corral and the subsequent Earp Vengeance Ride. The authenticity is good and Dennis Quaid—of whom I’m not a big fan—was surprisingly good as Doc Holliday. (Not Val Kilmer good, but Val set the standard. Quaid took the part a different direction.) Looking back, though, it’s too long and tries to cover too much ground. I’m not sorry I watched it, but now that I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it. Next time I get a Wyatt Earp hankering, I’ll watch Tombstone.
Blazing Saddles (1974) Maybe the greatest comedy ever, due to its success on so many
levels. The first of Mel Brooks’s satires on established genres, no holds are
barred in this examination of Westerns and racial prejudice. I can’t imagine
how large the protests would be if Blazing
Saddles had been made this year. Truth is, it would never have been
released. I’ve lost track of how often I’ve seen it—this is another one I first
saw in a theater on its initial release—and I still get tears of laughter five
minutes in just because I know what’s going to happen. Genius.
|Hold it, men. He's not bluffing.|