The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
"...an army of one."A Missouri farmer joins a Confederate guerilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family.
Among The Best Westerns Of The 1970s
Even when matched up against his Oscar-winning 1992 film UNFORGIVEN,
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES must rank as being among Clint Eastwood's finest
turns both in front of and behind the camera. Having displayed a solid
feel for the director's chair with 1971's PLAY MISTY FOR ME and 1973's
HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, Eastwood took the reins on JOSEY WALES when he and
the original director Philip Kaufman, who still shared a co-write of
the script (and had directed 1972's THE GREAT NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA
RAID), ran into some pretty strong disagreements. The end result was
one of the best westerns of the 1970s, in critical, commercial, and
Eastwood's character is a farmer living out a quiet life in Missouri
near the end of the Civil War who is forced to see his whole family and
homestead wiped out by marauding "Redlegs" from Kansas. He joins up
with a guerrilla band of Southerners to "set things aright." But when
the Union betrays those same guerrillas into surrendering and then
promptly slaughters all of them, Eastwood takes violent revenge. He
soon finds himself of the run at the reluctant hands of his former
commander (John Vernon), and a determined Union man named Terrill (Bill
McKinney, who played one of the sadistic mountain men in DELIVERANCE).
As he heads towards Texas, he encounters a motley group of outcasts
(Chief Dan George; Sondra Locke; Paula Trueman), and becomes less
obsessed by violent revenge and more interested in helping, going for
his guns only when McKinney's Union troop closes in, and bounty hunters
come looking for him.
In contrast to the "Man With No Name" persona he codified with Sergio
Leone in the 1960s, or the tough cop he personified in DIRTY HARRY,
Eastwood's Josey Wales is a man of great courage and sympathy who
becomes tired of all the violence he has had to see and to take part
in. The vengeance motif is largely played out by the time the film is
into its second half, and it only comes back towards the tail end for a
brief moment. Those who have tagged Eastwood as a political
reactionary, a John Wayne of our time, have certainly misjudged him, as
even one viewing of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES will testify to. He is not
interested in being tough for the sake of being tough; he just wants to
survive, and he wants those he protects to be able to live in peace.
That's why, although the film is unavoidably violent at times, it has a
considerable humanity too, and why it remains one of Eastwood's finest
films even to this day.