Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cahill: United States Marshal (1973)

An entertaining but forgettable entry in John Wayne’s latter-day filmography, Cahill: United States Marshal lacks the tragic poetry of The Cowboys (1972) and The Shootist (1976), the elegiac Westerns that comprise the Duke’s farewell to his beloved cowboy genre. Instead, Cahill: United States Marshal briskly presents a by-the-numbers story punctuated with solid action. There’s nothing here that fans haven’t seen a gazillion times before—Wayne struts through hordes of enemy gunmen like a superhero with a six-gun, barely flinching whenever he’s shot—but then again, novelty and surprise aren’t what people expected (or wanted) when they bought tickets to cowboy movies starring John Wayne. In this flick, the Duke plays J.D. Cahill, a tough-as-nails U.S. Marshal whose young sons fall in with a bad element while he’s away on business. Fraser (George Kennedy), a two-dimensional villain with a tendency to snarl while standing outside in lightning storms, pressures Cahill’s boys Danny (Gary Grimes) and Billy Joe (Clay O’Brien) to help with a bank robbery. When the robbery leads to the murder of a local sheriff, the lads realize they’ve gotten involved with the wrong varmints and try to wrangle themselves free of their predicament without getting killed or letting Dad know what’s happening. Much of the picture comprises Cahill stalking the robbers with the aide of his cranky Indian guide, Lightfoot (Neville Brand), so the drama of the piece, such as it is, stems from the question of how long the Cahill boys can manage to deceive their father. Quite predictably, it all comes to a head when Cahill figures out the truth in time to dole out equal measures of hot lead and life lessons. Efficiently directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and adequately written by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink (who also penned the Duke’s 1971 Western Big Jake), Cahill: United States Marshal is pleasant entertainment and nothing more, a well-made but uninspired run through the usual tropes of last-minute rescues, ornery put-downs, tense shootouts, and tough talk about how a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Cahill: United States Marshal: FUNKY

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