Monday, October 10, 2016

Rio Lobo

Rio Lobo; western, USA, 1970; D: Howard Hawks, S: John Wayne, Jorge Rivero, Jennifer O'Neill, Christopher Mitchum

American Civil War. A gang of Confederate soldiers steals gold from a train robbery, yet Union Colonel McNally manages to capture two of them: Pierre and Tuscarora. He is very eager to find out the name of the traitor from his ranks who sold them the information about the train. McNally meets a woman, Shasta, who wants to report a murder of her friend in Rio Lobo. McNally, Pierre and Shasta travel to Rio Lobo, and find out the town became a criminal center, where Ketcham installed a corrupt Sheriff, Hendricks, and both use the same method: ransom. With it, they bully people into selling them land cheaply. When Tuscarora is falsly arrested, Hendricks wants to ransom Tuscarora's father, Phillips, into selling him the land for a quarter of the price. McNally captures Ketcham and wants to exchange him for Tuscarora. In a shootout, Ketcham, Hendricks and their gang are killed.

Howard Hawks' last film, "Rio Lobo" is a decent, easily watchable, yet overall pale western that offers only small crumbs of pleasure from the master director. The western genre, once at its height in the 40s, 50s and 60s in the 20th century, suddenly started to lose its energy in the 70s, as if both the audience lost interest in it - and the authors their inspiration for making them, evident also in this film. One of the main problems is a very chaotic story that takes on too long to get to a convoluted setting where John Wayne's McNally gets into the confrontation with the bad guy: the first half an hour, involving a train robbery, seem unnecessary and too schematic, and should have been simply cut. "Rio Lobo" does improve halfway, though, once when the character of Shasta shows up, offering a few good examples of comical dialogues of Hawks-ian calibre (Shasta mentions how she worked in a Saloon, where men would "never stop looking at her". When Pierre is subtly hitting on her, she suddenly kisses him. Surprised, he asks why she did that, and she says: "I know men. This is how it stops". In another golden moment, Pierre mentions how he is "half French, half Mexican", upon which McNally cannot resist but to ask: "So, which half was kneeling and which half was kissing her hand?"). Unfortunately, the majority of the film is highly erratic, with too many characters and a poorly established villain who rarely even appears in the film, making his presence rather meagre, whereas the good old mood of outsiders teaming up to fight against a villain in a siege was presented better in Hawk's previous instalments, "Rio Bravo" and "El Dorado". A solid film, yet it simply lacks highlights.


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