the fresh films reviews

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The Gauntlet (1977)

Clint Eastwood
109 minutes
Robert Daley
Michael Butler
Dennis Shryack

Cast includes:

Ben Shockley Clint Eastwood ½
Gus Mally Sondra Locke
Josephson Pat Hingle ½
Blakelock William Prince
Constable Bill McKinney
Feyderspiel Michael Cavanaugh ½



Towards the end of the 1970s, there is little doubt that Clint Eastwood got stuck up in a screen persona and a tentative social criticism which in retrospect was little other than exaggerated, nihilistic genre masturbation. I submit films such as The Enforcer and this frenzy of 'shoot first, talk never' entitled The Gauntlet as evidence. The Gauntlet was actually the first film I ever saw starring Clint, when I was allowed to sit up with my parents to watch it on a rented VHS some time during the fairly early 1980s. It was a rather violent film to let a 6-year-old watch, but what made the biggest impression on me, was that they had to destroy that perfectly fine bus. It seemed just idiotic (and scary), and it still does, watching the film some 25 years later. It is strange to see how Clint, in his sixth venture in the director's chair, alternates between going for poignant, human drama – (which he incidentally largely succeeds at), and trying to link these passages intelligently up to the most ridiculous police action of the 1970s. Bear in mind that Clint probably had some anti-violence mission in mind when making this film (seeing as he only fires two shots himself, and never at a person), but the 'one crazy man works better than the crazy system' thematics is first of all overdone, and second of all rather off the mark here.

Ben Shockley is not Harry Callahan – but then again he is. The only difference is that Harry is good at what he does, whereas Ben is also good at what he does, but no one knows it. So essentially, The Gauntlet is a Dirty Harry reprise, only on acid. As for the direction, well despite all the fantasies spinning around in Clint's head here, he does make his film look and sound unabashedly well, with great photography and an enticing score. The Gauntlet is probably Eastwood's muddiest picture, but Clint fans, even the critical ones such as myself, will still enjoy it, if for nothing else than for the atmosphere and ridicule.

Copyright © 16.1.2009 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang