Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Hombre (1967)
Dir. Martin Ritt
Starring: Paul Newman, Fredic March, Diane Gilento, Richard Boone, Martin Balsam, Cameron Mitchell

John Russell (Newman), a white man raised by indians, suffers prejudice from his fellow travelers, but he becomes their only hope after they are attack by a band of outlaws.

Hombre was the final collaboration between Paul Newman and Martin Ritt, which capped off a series of films that included The Outrage, a western remake of Rashomon, and the classic modern day western Hud. In this film Newman plays John Russell, a white man that was raised by Apaches. He'd just be happy to stay out in the wilderness with them, but after he inherits a boarding house he gets pulled into the world of the white man, he gets drawn out into a world that he wants no part of. The movie starts off setting things up in a way that recalls the John Wayne/John Ford collaboration Stagecoach. Everyone gets on a stage for a different reason, but at the midpoint of the film, things take a turn when the Grimes, the man that bullied his way onto the stage, attempts to rob Favor, the rich man who organized the journey. The back half of the film is made up of a series of standoffs between Russell and Grimes and his gang as they try to get their hands on Favor's fortune as the travelers try to make their way to safety. The movie keeps things moving at a good pace, and each of the encounters are different enough that it never feels stale or like you're seeing the same thing again.

The movie definitely feels somewhat influenced by the spaghetti westerns, especially in terms of it's tone and it's violence. It does feature a shot of someone getting shot in the face, which is surprising for a movie from this era.The entire movie is looks great, and it's well directed by Ritt. Ritt and Newman had plenty of experience together, and their knowledge of what Newman was capable of as an actor allowed them to create a great character that did most of his acting with this looks and his body language.

The cast is very strong in the film, with Paul Newman in the lead, playing the role of John Russell with the same cold cool quality that he did in films like Hud or Harper. He's more of an antihero than Wayne was in Stagecoach, which makes sense when you consider the time when each film was made. He is cold towards his companions, and he presents and when he's told "You give us the money or we shoot the woman!", only for him to reply with  "All right, shoot her.", you believe that he could care less about any of them, just himself. What's interesting about the film is that some of the other characters see him as a savage, but the events of the film show Grimes (and even the Favors) to be far worse.

Diane Cilento gets probably the most screentime as Jessie, the widow that ran the boarding house and is on the stage trying to move on and find a better, easier life. She is the conscience of the film, trying to force Russell into helping others and not just looking out for himself. It's a role that could easily turn into a shrew, but she plays the role in a way that never feels like she honestly believes that people are good, which is a far cry from Russell's pessimistic attitude towards everyone. But she does get a scenes with Cameron Mitchell, who gives a great bit of dialogue about working that is really great. Martin Balsam is the Mexican driver of the stage, an everyman man that doesn't want to see danger or excitement, but rises to the occasion when he has to. Richard Boone is pretty great as Cicero Grimes, the villians of the film. When he enters the story his performance gives the film a bolt of energy thanks to his fun, scene chewing performance. But at the same time he stays bad, with his actions constantly reminding you how bad he is, like his attempt to force himself on Doris. He keeps things lively, but at the same time his portrayal of the character is scary.

I've never read the Elmore Leonard book that this was adapted from, and I don't know what his opinion of the finished film was, but I know that I enjoyed it a lot. I'd say that it's a pretty important film and definitely worth watching.

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