Saturday, July 9, 2011

Showdown (1973)

By the time Showdown was released, the traditional Western had been all but replaced on American movie screens by revisionist Westerns filled with dark characterizations and grimy location photography. So it’s jarring to watch this utterly traditional film featuring two utterly traditional stars (Rock Hudson and Dean Martin), because the picture feels as if it could have been made in the ’60s or even the ’50s. Accepting as a given that the movie is hopelessly out of step for its era, Showdown is harmless enough—an earnest story about two lifelong friends who end up on opposite sides of the law. Hudson plays an Old West sheriff who makes a small but honest living with his spitfire wife (Susan Clark), and Martin plays his long-lost pal, a ne’er-do-well who has fallen in with a gang of thieves. When Martin’s crew robs a train in Hudson’s territory, Hudson has to hunt his old friend. Martin is torn between his desire for freedom and his reluctance to shoot a pal, and the situation gets complicated when Martin’s ex-partner (Donald Moffat) decides he wants revenge, meaning Martin now has two gunslingers after him. Notwithstanding a series of illuminating flashbacks showing the main characters bonding prior to current events (an admirable attempt at deepening characterization), there’s nothing in Showdown that Western fans haven’t seen a hundred times before. The dialogue is decent and the various open-desert shootouts and high-desert chases are okay, though it’s distracting that the film employs antiquated rear-projection techniques. Hudson is a solid presence, especially since the stoicism of cowboy characters suits his limited range, and Martin is charming even if he’s a bit long in the tooth for this sort of thing. Showdown is too innocuous to dislike, but it’s not a cause for much excitement.

Showdown: FUNKY

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