Tuesday, January 12, 2010

'The Gauntlet' manages to squeeze character
in among non-stop action

The Gauntlet (1977)
Starring: Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

Ben Shockley (Eastwood) is a burned-out Phoenix cop who is sent to Las Vegas to retrieve a reluctant witness Augustina "Gus" Mally (Locke). It seems like another meaningless assignment given to someone who is just counting down to retirement... until the bullets start to fly. Shockley soon learns that he was given this escort duty because his superiors expected him to fail and that he is in the middle of a plot cooked up by corrupt officials at the highest level of Phoenix's government. Shockley finds his spirit again, and, fighting against deceit on both sides of the law, he strikes back and sets in motion explosive plans of his own to deliver "Gus" to the Phoenix courthouse.

"The Gauntlet" is one of my all-time favorite action movies, and my very favorite Clint Eastwood film. He and Locke play fabulously off each other, and the rebirth that Ben Shockley experiences in the film makes him an extremely intriguing character that Eastwood brings to fantastic and believable life.

With non-stop action and just the right amount of humor and tragedy.well-timed plot-twists, villains who actually have mounted a conspiracy that's believable, and an over-the-top finale where an entire police force seems to have been mobilized to execute one lonely man and one lonely woman, "The Gauntlet" fires in perfect rhythm on all cylinders from beginning to end.

It's a classic movie that any lover of action films, cop dramas, and the works of Clint Eastwood needs to see.

[Footnote to Review When Originally Posted in 2005]
"The Gauntlet" actually serves as a nice contrast with the awful remake of "Assault on Precinct 13" from 2005. The two moves share many of the same themes and their main characters share several similar traits. They also both end with a misappropriate of police resources so extreme that the conspirators arrayed against the hero have lost even if they win.

However, "Assault" uses the elements badly and clumsily while "The Gauntlet" brings them all together in perfection. As a result, "Assault" is a dull string of action sequences that don't really result in anything than run-of-the-mill, going-through-the-motions storytelling with cliched and flat characters, and that culminate in what seems like an outrageous reach into the rediculous with the arrival of a helicopter and airborn SWAT officers; while "The Gauntlet" is a series of action scenes that lead to mysteries being solved, characters rediscovering strengths they thought they had lost, and that culminate in what seems like a perfectly acceptable final effort by desperate bad guys hoping to save themselves.

I think examaning these films closely will tell aspiring filmmakers volumes about what it takes to make a proper movie of this kind.

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