Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Gunfighter

Synopsis: Greg Peck (as ace tougho gunfighter Jimmy Ringo) kills a wisecracking Johnny-come-lately whose three bros then come after him. All end up in Cayenne, home to Peck's old flame and eight year old son and his old partner (now on the other side of the law as the marshal). Peck wants to get back with his ladyfriend and son (who don't want nuffink to do wiv 'im but kinda do really) whilst another young whipper snapper fancies having a go at Greg. Climax: Peck meets son for first time; lady friend says a half hearted let's have another go (if you prove yourself); the three brothers try it on and fail but just when you think we're all home and dry the young gun shoots Greg in the back. Cue the marshal punching his lights out and Rock of Ages at the (packed out) funeral.
Lesson learnt: Being a tough guy tough.

Watched this afternoon on DVD from Lovefilm and really liked it.

I wasn't sure about Gregory Peck as a roughty-toughty gunman but he brought what was needed to the character, I think. I liked the set-up; it was kind of like 3:10 to Yuma or High Noon in that there was the real time element; the sense of impending doom and the clock watching. It also meant that you got to see a set of characters unfurl over just a couple of hours.

Greg Peck's death scene was a bit hammy but, oh boy, Millard Mitchell (last seen by me in Singin' in the Rain as R.F.) has a fantastic scene just after this with the guy that kills Greg that's really something; summing up the essence of Peck's character and destiny and everything with a few well placed punches that you wished you were administering yourself.

Great bit of pre-Yoda Yoda speak: Peck asks his son to disperse the crowd outside the saloon to which the son says:

"I'll try"
"No, not try: you'll do"

Don't you just love George Lucas and his plagiarising? But seriously, the film has real depth and heart. Definitely one to see if you're into the whole bad-man-trying-to-change-his-ways sub-genre: makes you think about the concept of destiny again and what it means if you just can't break out. There's a good contrast between some of the characters: you've got Peck who is so famous as a bad guy he just can't break free from the burden of this and Mitchell who did manage to break out and go straight. Then there's the female friend who's turned to singing in bars cos her boyfriend (who also used to be a baddy gunman) got killed. She had no choice but to change her course.

So, yet again, it's all about our different identities. Even Peck's old flame has changed hers; her name etc to escape association with him. Also, you've got his son, who at first doesn't even know his real identity and heritage at all. Then, finally you've got the young killer who, after killing Peck, is made to live with what he's done rather than get hung (hanged?), so his destiny is set by his actions.

And so we're back at Sartre again, aren't we? Well...sort of.

More info: