Friday, May 20, 2011

Pale Rider: Nothing New from Eastwood

The 1985 American-western, Pale Rider, is nothing new from Clint Eastwood. Set during the 1880s in the fictional mining town of LaHood (located in the foothills of northern California) the film follows a group of mining families struggling to hit gold.


However, when the families face trouble from a band of thugs – sent by the town’s founder and rival miner, Coy LaHood (played by Richard Dysart) – who violently destroy the group’s camp, they are threatened with an ultimatum: either vacate their mining claims within the next 24 hours, or be forced to fight LaHood’s army for the rights to the claims. Inspired by the protection that they have been receiving from the lone ‘Preacher’ (Clint Eastwood) – who has been fighting back against LaHood’s bullies – the families decide to take a stand and fight for the claims that they rightfully own.

“We owe ourselves more:”

Quarterbacked by ‘Preacher,’ LaHood’s mining facilities are destroyed and his thugs are systematically taken out, as Eastwood and the leader of the mining families, Hull Barret (played by Michael Moriarty), join forces in combating the malicious rival. Culminating in a classic western showdown between Preacher and LaHood’s head deputy, Stockburn (John Russell), Eastwood demonstrates his superior marksmanship by beating Stockburn to the draw and blowing him away. Having illustrated the coolheaded conviction that has customarily come to define his films, Eastwood delivers a one-liner – “[speaking to Hull] Long walk” – before heading off on horseback, knowing that his duty has been done.

Final showdown:

While Pale Rider was successful in delivering another conventional western film – illustrating a customary struggle that could only be solved by Eastwood’s heroic interventional actions – the significantly slow pace of the film makes its 115-minute length a struggle for even the most patient of viewers. Furthermore, as Eastwood fails in having implemented any truly new or different aspects into the film, the routine progression that is created further pulls from the attention of the audience.

Although the violence of the action scenes somewhat compensates for the film’s dullness, the context of even these scenes is too expected. Being that Eastwood’s supernatural sharpshooting ability that we have seen consistently throughout his films (such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Hang ‘Em High) is maintained in Pale Rider, the element of surprise remains completely absent from the film. Albeit the depreciation that this lacking makes on the overall enjoyment of the film, the brutality of the hand-to-hand altercations and gun-wielding showdowns in the motion picture is still very much entertaining.

Sledgehammer fight:

However, in conclusion, Pale Rider would be forced to go to the very bottom of my recommendation list, as it lacks the elements needed to stand the test of time and ultimately, will end up getting lost in the vast parallels of the American-western film genre.

1 comment:

Vladigogo said...

He struggled in the 80s with his Westerns, but then made Unforgiven in the 90s which went on to Oscar glory. It was a great flick.