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Friday, August 7, 2009

JOE KIDD (1972)

Modestly scaled, largely unheralded Clint Eastwood Western (about a Southwest land grab by the new white elite) has a tight script from Elmore Leonard and crystal-clear action sequences from vet helmer John Sturges. Eastwood’s role has less mythic elements than usual, which allows for a pleasingly anarchic, even loosey-goosey spirit that turns the sadistic touches of violence into literal punchlines. John Saxon may seem an unlikely choice to lead the downtrodden Mexican victims, but not when you recall that his real name was Carmen Orrico! On the other hand, chief villain Robert Duvall misjudges his effects, delivering an honest piece of naturalistic acting that doesn’t fit the tone or scale of the pic. Even so, once you get a handle on its off-plumb angle, not always so easy with the over-active Lalo Schifrin score, the film is filled with little pleasures served up by pros.

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