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The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

January 11, 2010

VERDICT:
9/10 Habitual Spitters

Man, there is nothing like a Clint Eastwood Western.

The Outlaw Josey Wales is about an ordinary farmer who’s minding his P’s and Q’s when his family is murdered and home burned to the ground by a band of straight up evil bastards just because. So the farmer heads off with a ragtag group of Confederate guerrillas in search of these jerks, then finds himself on the run with a big ol’ warrant on his head when the said evil bastards turn out to be Union soldiers, and with the help of some Indians and women he meets along the way, the farmer-turned-misunderstood killing machine books it down South to get revenge and clear his good name.

I’m not really sure why, but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing too many Clint Eastwood movies around here at Cut The Crap. I’m thinking it’s because I need a mass refresher course so I can do them all justice, but nonetheless, this cannot stand. Nor do I think I’ve made it perfectly clear that Clint Eastwood is a god among men, easily finding his way to the top spot as my favorite actor of all time. There’s a laundry list of reasons why, but The Outlaw Josey Wales is a pretty solid example on its own. So to prevent this review from turning into an Ode to Clint, I’ll just go ahead and dive into the movie.

In a nutshell, Josey Wales is badass.

I can see why some people not be into the whole Western thing, especially something like this that doesn’t move along at the speed of a meth freak, but I don’t happen to be in that choir. Westerns are freakin’ great and it’s always awesome to come across one like this that goes against the grain when it comes to what folks generally think as “traditional” Westerns. This isn’t John Wayne, this isn’t cowboys vs. inguns, Josey is instead a surprisingly poignant take on John Ford‘s wild West that manages to stay cool as hell while turning convention after convention on its head.

And even though he didn’t write the script – which is also really good and is filled with some classic one-liners that had me howling – Eastwood has since made this unconventional take on the genre that made him famous a trademark of sorts with Unforgiven and whatnot, and damn if it still isn’t refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, John Wayne and John Ford are tip-top in my book, but I’ll always have a penchant for Clint’s West.

This time around, the bad guys are the Union soldiers, the good guys are the “murderers” and the Indians, and rather than shoot first and ask questions later, it looks toward a peaceful resolution (granted, Clint still does a lot of shooting first before questions are asked, but what do you expect, the guy’s got a warrant on his head). I mean, I don’t know what things were really like back then, but considering how badly Native Americans got screwed – and continue to get screwed – I can’t help but love that they’re the ones taking names here. They’re not presented as “savages”, they’re the victimized heroes that have had just about enough of the white man’s shit and they are more than happy to jump on Josey’s bandwagon.

And as for Clint as Josey, well, I said this wasn’t going to be a fanboy rant, so I’ll be brief. It’s not a groundbreaking performance in the way that Gran Torino was for him, it’s familiar territory, but the strongest aspect of the role lies not only in Josey’s moral code, but that it plays to Clint’s strongest suit: the dude doesn’t mince words. The thing that a lot of actors and screenwriters don’t get about what it makes to come up with a legitimately cool character is that you don’t have to be loud and you don’t have to have bigger guns than everyone else. Clint has never been much of a talker, but when he speaks, people listen, and not just because of that hardcore sneer, but because the guy knows how to choose his words.

That’s why Clint is the man here, that’s why Clint is the man always. He is the standard.

But anyway, The Outlaw Josey Wales is a standout Western because it’s not the norm. It takes something familiar and turns it upside-down in a far more insightful, humanistic, and (probably) realistic manner that was atypical for a genre that started out pretty black and white. Not sure if this is gonna be the one to convert anyone who’s not already a Western fan, but a great movie all the same that has rightfully earned its place as a classic.

Dammit, that totally turned into an Ode to Clint. Eh, had to happen sooner or later.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Diamond Tim permalink
    June 24, 2011 7:37 pm

    After your True Grit review, I was a bit apprehensive to check out your review on this but…WE AGREE!!! My favorite western movie of all-time…arguably my favorite all time movie period.

    • June 26, 2011 3:02 pm

      Hahaha. Very glad we can agree on this, easily a favorite Western of mine as well.

      • Diamond Tim permalink
        June 27, 2011 1:29 pm

        “I rekkon so”. 😉

  2. September 6, 2011 4:23 am

    I also loved this western. Clint is a real bad-ass here just like in Spaghetti westerns few years before.
    Good Confederates against evil Unionists is also right up my valley :-).

    • September 8, 2011 4:56 pm

      Isn’t that just awesome? Villainize the blue coats and make them totally deserve what they get. So cool. Clint is the freaking man, this is just one of endless reasons why.

  3. March 25, 2012 4:15 pm

    You got me at the first sentence. Great review, great movie, great blog! I’m looking forward to your reviews of the dollars trilogy.

    • March 27, 2012 9:18 am

      Haha. It’s true!

      And thanks three times over! Gotta get around to writing those up one of these days.

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