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Outlaw Josey Wales [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Clint Eastwood's 31st film as an actor, 20th as international star and fifth as director, was the first to win him widespread respect. Critics had grumbled when the producer-star replaced Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff) in the director's chair a week into shooting. They ended up cheering when Eastwood delivered both his most sympathetic performance to date and--with the heroic collaboration of cinematographer Bruce Surtees--an impressive Panavision epic that stresses the scruffiness, rather than the scenic splendours, of frontier life.
During the Civil War, Union "Redlegs" attack Southerner Josey Wales's dirt farm and wipe out his family. Seeking vengeance, Wales throws in with a company of Reb guerrillas. Tagged as a renegade after the surrender, he flees west into the vastness of the Indian Territories, where, quite unintentionally, he finds himself cast as the straight-shooting paterfamilias of an ever-growing, spectacularly motley community of misfits and castaways. This is to say, Josey's personal quest for survival and something like peace of mind evolves into a funky, multicultural allegory of the healing of America.
Josey Wales is good, not great, Eastwood. The big-gun fetishism can get tiresome, and too many characters exist only to serve as six-gun (and at one point Gatling gun) fodder. But mostly the film is agreeably eccentric, and almost furtively sweet in spirit--a key transitional title in the Eastwood filmography, and one of his most entertaining. --Richard T Jameson
Josey Wales is a simple farmer in Missouri. When a vicious band of Union Red Legs, led by Terrill, burns his home to the ground, killing his wife and son, Wales joins a gang of Confederate raiders, determined to getrevenge.
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Expectations of a standard western are way off the mark. "Revisionist" in as much as not simply portraying the south as racist bigots and the union as the side of God; but the redemptive finale, plus numerous funny and compassionate elements make this as strong a statement in favour of the possibility of harmonious racial integration as anything in this medium.
Josey Wales (the redoubtable Mr Eastwood in great form) seeks vengeance after the death of his family, loss of livelihood and destruction of his home. He manages to sharp-shoot his way through bounty-hunters and drunks, but through the addition of the glorious Chief Dan George as the lost Cherokee and the religious party containing the then-Mrs Eastwood Sondra Locke, he finds initally irritants, then companions whom he softens to throughout the latter-half of the film. These characters are devices which allow the film to deviate from it`s path of bloody violence.
The film changes in pace and direction to the surprise of the viewer from Chief Dan George`s funny introduction. In such a powerful way that he chooses "life" when meeting with the Comanche, and even assists setting up a homestead, Wales` personal growth extends to allowing a Navajo woman and many others to ride along with him on what was originally a personal crusade, before the meeting he has wanted since the Guerilla fighters he was with were shot down in the early scene...where he achieves his goal of vengeance, firing empty chambers before the gruesome death of his true enemy.
There are so many moments to enjoy, from the simple trick of the Missisippi boat ride, to the old world innocence and comedy of Chief Dan George, and the elixir-selling carpetbagger, this is a truely sublime film that grows from a simple tale of the revenge-seeking farmer to one that through the analogy of the aftermath of the American Civil War, suggests that the Whites (the Union) and the Indians and Blacks (the South) can find enough common goals to live together and put past troubles behind them...which is a pretty good message, and one that is always relevant.
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