Best of… Series – 1958 – Man of the West

Man of the West (Anthony Mann, 1958)

Wow, this is probably the most brutal classic western I’ve seen. This felt like it could have come from the 1960s or early 1970s. Mann holds nothing back here in making his bad guys very bad, very cold, and very heartless. The only loyalty they know are to the people that help them get richer. Gary Cooper stars as a reformed outlaw who has an accidental run in with his uncle – a well-known violent rebel – and the uncle’s posse. Cooper is run down, tired, and has a strong urge to do any right he can at this later point of his life. Other innocent bystanders are involved in the run in, and there is also an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and desolation that accompany these people (both the bystanders and the outlaws) and the landscape that surrounds them. It’s definitely a dreary tone, but you can’t help but care for these people.

Also, I don’t really know where to fit this in to my review, but I want to mention a fantastic fight scene in this film. Cooper’s character gets into it with one of the members of his uncle’s posse, and the fight is one of the most awkward and uncoordinated things you’ll ever see. In a genre that often thrives on action, it’s nice to see Mann handle this fight (between an aging man and a man who talks bigger than he acts) with care towards who the characters really are, and what they are capable of.  9.75/10


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