Joe Kidd (1972)
Dir: John Sturges - Cast: Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, Stella Garcia, Paul Koslo, James Wainwright
Knowing that the movie was directed by John Sturges, also stars Robert Duvall and was scripted by Elmore Leonard, it may come as a surprise that Joe Kidd is often called Clint's dullest western. It is probably best known for a scene in which Eastwood runs a railway engine through a bar. Some have noticed similarities to Sergio Corbucci's The Great Silence ('that western in the snow'). A persistent rumor says Clint once bought the rights to a remake of Corbucci's movie (which was never released in the US), but then decided to do this movie instead. There are couple of similarities (locations, weapons) but they're rather vague and they might as well be totally coincidental.
The premise sounds very interesting: at the end of the Mexican-American war, Mexico has ceded a part of its territory to the US (1). The local Mexican population are being systematically cheated of their land rights by American land barons. One of the locals, a farmer called Chama, has started a riot that is quickly spreading. The most powerful of the landowners, Harlan, organizes a manhunt and offers Joe Kidd, a former bounty hunter, $ 500 to track down Chama. Joe first refuses, but then hears that Chama has raided his farm ...
The conflict between Spanish and English language citizens is an interesting subject, not often treated in westerns, but unfortunately not very much is done with it here. Joe Kidd starts off well, with a stoic Clint reluctantly choosing sides in the conflict, but loses momentum along the way and comes up with a particularly disappointing conclusion. Some think Elmore Leonard was one of America's finest (screen-)writers, but I have never been a fan of his work. His script for Joe Kidd lacks insight, both in the characters and the conflict. Eastwood's character is ill-defined and Duvall's land baron is too much typified as a nazi avant-la-lettre. Overall the action scenes look good. However, I do not like this scene with rail way engine. It is funny, but it's also a bit ridiculous and ultimately it looks as uninspired as the movie itself.
Joe Kidd in a rather one-dimensional action movie, watchable, but not living up to its expectations. There are enough 'Eastwood moments' to keep his fans interested and Bruce Surtees' cinematography gives the film a glorious look, but with this cast and this director, we would've expected a bit more.