Friday, 21 December 2012

Rio Bravo [1959]

Legendary Westerners Howard Hawks and John Wayne were so appalled by High Noon – they allegedly even considered it as “un-American” – that they made Rio Bravo in response. Easily Hawks’ most renowned work, it remains as an unapologetic apotheosis for both classical Westerns, and the traditional concepts of heroism, valour and machismo. When a brutish outlaw kills a man in broad daylight, John T. Chance (Wayne), the lumbering Sheriff of a Texan town, promptly arrests him, in order to hand him over to the US marshal who is supposed to arrive in six days. However, in the meantime, the convict’s elder brother, who is a wealthy rancher, has surrounded the town with hired hands, while Chance has at his disposal a recovering alcoholic (Dean Martin) with doubtful psychological makeup even if he is a crackshot, and a cackling and garrulous old man with a pronounced limp (Walter Brennan). Eventually an outwardly detached young gunner (Ricky Nelson) too joins his group, while he starts falling for an attractive dancer (Angie Dickinson). Like his counterpart in the Zinnemann masterpiece, the Sheriff is heavily outnumbered and would love reinforcements, but unlike him, he’d rather go down alone than beg for help. Filled with Western archetypes, leisurely paced to allow exquisite mood build-up, comprising of great character dynamics, superbly performed by Wayne, Martin and Brennan, suffused with humour and tension, and ending with an explosive gunfight, this is one of those rare canonical works that also managed to be immensely entertaining. The film also contained a couple of memorable Country songs, rendered by the mellifluous voices of the two renowned crooners, viz. Martin and Nelson.

Director: Howard Hawks
Genre: Western/Buddy Film
Language: English
Country: US

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