Monday, August 24, 2015

Short Attention Span Review: High Plains Drifter (1973)

High Plains Drifter may be a difficult picture to describe, but it isn't hard to enjoy.  Eastwood stars in and directs this twisted vision of vengeance from beyond the grave.  Laced with supernatural overtones and an ominous vibe, this unholy tale is a revisionist take on the western genre.  It is surreal enough to make the viewer uneasy, ambiguous enough to present more than a few bizarre questions as the tale unfolds, yet grounded enough and tight enough to keep the audience hooked from the very start.  The score is strange, the color palette is striking, and the main character is a gunslinger whose cold gaze and colder demeanor barely conceal his burning desire for death and destruction.  Yet while his motivations and in fact the very nature of his character may be unclear, his actions are seldom subtle and his lethal skills and his reckless abandon quickly pave the way for the demise of the town of Lago.  High Plains Drifter is grim, crude, sexist, and quite violent, and in many ways it is the polar opposite of what we expect from such a film, particularly in terms of morality.  Eastwood's presence and the fact that this is a tale of justice at its core (albeit a far less sanitized view of the "eye for an eye" mentality that permeates the genre) are likely the only factors that keep the many fans of the picture from finding it as incendiary as beloved western icon John Wayne reportedly did.  Eastwood is perfectly at ease in the title role and the entire cast does a nice job with the material.  Eastwood also did a fine job as director, and the tombstones in the Lago cemetery bearing the names of Sergio Leone and Don Siegel aren't the only nods to his former directors in the mix.  High Plains Drifter is a curious western that works well but may seem overly vulgar or quixotic to some.  Personally, I think it's one of Clint's most striking features--even if it didn't crack my Top 5 Clint Eastwood Movies.

Final Grade: B+
This eerie revenge yarn with supernatural overtones stars Eastwood as a
nameless stranger who slowly but surely turns the town of Lago into a living hell.

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