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The Outlaw Jose Wales (1976): the film that spawned two bad things for Client Eastwood: Sandra Locke and the Director’s Guild’s new legislation, known as “the Clint Eastwood Rule.”

I don’t like westerns that much.  There are exceptions of course—Eastwood’s the Man With No Name series, the Wild Bunch and a couple of others but that is really about it.  Then there is the Outlaw Josey Wales, a western that is near the top of that genre’s food chain in my book.  Eastwood directed part of the film (the initial director Phillip Kaufman was fired) and starred as the Outlaw Josey Wales (as well as his son playing a small role) along with soon to be longtime lover Sandra Locke (a big mistake there)—but more on that later.

The Outlaw Josey Wales was an adaptation of Forrest Carter’s 1973 novel The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales (republished, as shown in the movie’s opening credits, as Gone to Texas).

 

The story is about Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer, who is driven to revenge for the murder of his wife and son by a band of pro-Union Jayhawkers—Senator Lane’s Redlegs from Kansas.  Seeking revenge Wales joins a guerilla group of pro-Confederate Missouri Bushwhackers.  Being on the losing side, when it is all over the group is promised amnesty.  But Wales was not in the war for the politics, but revenge, and not having succeeded he refuses to surrender.  Luckily Wales avoids a trap in which his compatriots are massacred by the same bunch that killed his family.

Well this puts Wales on the run from Union militia and bounty hunters.  Along the way, despite wishing to be left alone, he accumulates a rag-tag group of followers including an old Cherokee named Lone Watie, a young Navajo woman, and an elderly woman from Kansas and her granddaughter (Sandra Locke) whom Wales rescued from Comancheros.

 

In Texas, Wales and his companions are cornered in a ranch house which is fortified to withstand Indian raids.  The Redlegs attack but are gunned down by the defenders. Wales, despite being out of ammunition, pursues the fleeing Captain Terrill on horseback.  When he catches him, Wales dry fires his pistols through all twenty–four empty chambers before stabbing Terrill with his own cavalry sword.

 

Wounded and recovering at the bar in Santa Rio, Wales finds Fletcher with two Texas Rangers.  The locals at the bar successfully hide his identity and convince the Rangers that Wales died in Monterrey, Mexico.  Fletcher pretends he does not recognize Wales, and says that he will go to Mexico and look for Wales himself.  Seeing the blood dripping on Wales’s boot, Fletcher says that he will give Wales the first move, because he “owes him that.” Wales rides off.

 

This is a great film that had some not so great long term consequences for Eastwood.  First, the film began a close relationship between Eastwood and Locke that would last six films and the beginning of a romance going into the late 1980’s.  This relationship would cause some serious headaches later for Eastwood eventually resulting in a lawsuit that ended up in my law school contracts casebook.  In 1995, Locke sued Eastwood for fraud, alleging that he had paid Warner Bros. to keep her out of work since the studio had rejected all of the 30 or more projects she proposed, and never assigned her to direct any of their in-house projects (maybe they just sucked).  In 1996, just minutes before a jury was to render a verdict in Locke’s favor, Eastwood agreed to settle for an undisclosed amount.  The outcome of the case, Locke said, sent a “loud and clear” message to Hollywood “that people cannot get away with whatever they want to just because they’re powerful.”  This case appears in law school textbooks as an example of breaching the implied duty of good faith in every contract.  In my opinion, she deserved nothing because I think all palimony cases are nonsense (palimony was the underlying basis for her claims).

 

The second unflattering item for Eastwood that came out of this great film occurred when, on October 24, 1975, Kaufman was fired at Eastwood’s command by producer Bob Daley.  This caused an outrage amongst the Directors Guild of America and other important Hollywood executives, since the director had already worked hard on the film, including completing all of the pre-production work.  Heavy pressure was put on Warner Brothers and Eastwood to back down, but their refusal to do so resulted in a $60,000 fine (a fair amount of money in the mid-seventies).  This led to the Director’s Guild passing new legislation, known as ‘the Clint Eastwood Rule’ in which they reserved the right to impose a major fine on a producer for discharging a director and replacing that director with himself.

Besides these two unflattering matters that arose out of the film, the Outlaw Josey Wales is some of Eastwood’s best work.  It combines some of his “man with no name” characteristics with a more complete human being—though never taking the mystique out of Wales.  The movie also has some very funny scenes in it, an unusual trait found in most westerns.  Though long, the Outlaw Josey Wales gets a worth-the-time-to-watch thumbs up from me.

 

Next time a-to-be-determined film I hate.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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Falling Down (1993) there is a little something in it for everyone.

I was rolling my catalog case along and caught the edge of the elevator door and tripped, but didn’t fall down.  Then it hit me, “eureka! Our next review at JPFmovies will be a look at “Falling Down” (1993), starring Michael Douglas and Robert Duval.”  An interesting film that has some moments of outrageously dark comedy and has some pretty cold, downright psychopathic behavior.  My guess is that while Douglas traverses Los Angeles to “go home” for his daughter’s birthday party, virtually everyone can identify with at least one of the situations he encounters along the way.  For us here at JPFmovies, it was the fast food restaurant scene (see clip below).

The film stars Michael Douglas in the lead role of William Foster (credited as “D-Fens”) the moniker appearing on his car’s license plate.  He is a frustrated, divorced and unemployed former defense engineer.  The film follows Foster as he goes on a violent trek across the city of Los Angeles, to reach the house of his estranged ex-wife in time for his daughter’s birthday party.  Along the way, he ends up in a number of situations, ranging from the trivial to the significant, provocative encounters that cause him to (over)react with violence and make sardonic observations on life, poverty, the economy, and commercialism.  Robert Duvall is an aging, often cowardly LAPD Sergeant on his last day before he retires, facing frustration with socially-accepted spinelessness, even while tracking down Foster.

The spark that lights this fire ignites when Foster’s air conditioning fails in his shitty car while he is in a serious traffic jam.  Out of pure exasperation, he simply abandons his car and begins making his way across Los Angeles to attend the birthday party as an uninvited guest.

The first encounter is at a convenience store, where the Korean owner refuses to give Foster change so he can make a telephone call—yes, that is right, at a payphone.  Foster has a heated discussion about the store’s ridiculously high prices.  The Korean goes for his baseball bat and demands Foster leave.  Foster wrestles the bat away from the shopkeeper and destroys much of the merchandise until the Korean brings his prices back to 1965 levels before leaving—then he pays for a coke and leaves.  In a vacant lot across the street, Foster is accosted by two gang members who threaten him with a knife and demand his briefcase as a toll before allowing him to leave.  Foster gives them a good beating and takes their knife and continues on his journey.

Naturally, having their “honor” challenged, the two gang members attempt a drive by shooting and find Foster in a phone booth.  They open fire, taking out several bystanders but Foster walks away without a scratch.  After the driver loses control of the car and crashes, Foster goes to survey the damage, finds a gun and shoots the one surviving gang member.  He finds the gangs gym bag full of weapons and walks away with his new found supplies.  After that encounter Foster gives his briefcase to an overly persistent panhandler he meets – but it turns out all the briefcase contains is a sandwich and an apple.

Feeling a little hungry, Foster rolls into a fast food restaurant and attempts to order breakfast, but they have switched to the lunch menu.  After informing the manager that the customer is always right, Foster pulls a gun and accidentally fires into the ceiling.  Trying to reassure the frightened employees and customers, Foster orders lunch, but points out that his burger looks nothing like the one shown on the menu.

Foster passes a bank where a black man is holding a sign stating “not economically viable,” protesting being rejected for a loan application.  The man exchanges a glance with Foster, who then asks him to “remember me” as he is escorted away by police.  Looking for a new pair of shoes (we see that Foster is stuffing his shoes with newspaper), Foster stops at an Army-Navy surplus store.  The owner is a white supremacist who chases away the police looking for Foster and when they have cleared out he offers Foster a rocket launcher, and congratulates him for shooting “a bunch of niggers” at the Whammy Burger.  When Foster denounces the overt racism the fool pulls a gun, but Foster shoots, stabs and kills him.  He changes into army fatigues and boots, takes the rocket launcher, and leaves.

In what is probably the second funniest scene, Foster stumbles across a road repair crew, working about as hard as teamsters usually do—not doing much–and accuses them of doing make work to justify their budgets.  He pulls out the rocket launcher, but struggles to use it, until a young boy (who thinks Foster is part of a movie set) explains how it works.  Foster accidentally fires the launcher which goes underground and destroys the construction site.

By the time Foster The film did ok at the box office, grossing $40.9 million domestically.  It earned $18.1 million in theatrical rentals, falling short of its $25 million budget.  Although, it was the number one weekend movie during its first two weeks of release (2/26-28, 3/5-7/93).

Reviews for the film were often positive.  The movie holds a 73% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 56 out of 100 (“mixed or average reviews”) on Metacritic.

What is fascinating about the Douglas character, as written and played, is the core of sadness in his soul.  Yes, by the time we meet him, he has gone over the edge.  But there is no exhilaration in his rampage, no release.  He seems weary and confused, and in his actions he unconsciously follows scripts that he may have learned from the movies, or on the news, where other frustrated misfits vent their rage on innocent bystanders.

Many film critics claimed that the film glorifies law-breaking vigilantism—which is a total load of nonsense; the character is not the ‘hero’ or ‘newest urban icon,’ but a rogue and the victim at the same time.  There are many elements of our society that contributed to his madness and one may even pity him.  But the film never condones his actions.

Controversy

The Korean American Coalition protested the film for its treatment of the Korean grocer.  Warner Brothers Korea canceled the release of Falling Down in South Korea following boycott threats (chickens).  Of course someone had to be offended.  Somehow unemployed defense workers were also angered at their portrayal in the film.  Falling Down at its core could be seen as the definitive study of the “angry white male”; the character of D-FENS was featured on magazine covers and reported upon as an embodiment of the stereotype.

Some compare Falling down to Boyz ‘N the Hood.  It is a shrewd, nasty–at times wickedly funny–movie that probes nothing and challenges everybody.  I will not be surprised if some people dismiss it as a variation of the Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood vigilante movies of the l970s.  Indeed, the locale and the characters may be new, but the ideology is old and familiar.

Falling Down taps effectively into Americans’ worst collective fears and nightmares, and, considering that it’s well-made and well-acted, the movie might be even more alarming than intended, because it is good entertainment.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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What the hell happened to Mario Van Peebles? Well in 1986 we know he co-starred with Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge.

For a while, it seemed like Mario Van Peebles was on every silver screen.  Then it seemed like he just disappeared and/or started making junk movies that probably went right to DVD.  Putting that to one side, we do know that in 1986 he co-starred in Heartbreak Ridge, a film produced by, directed by, and starring Clint Eastwood.

 

Heartbreak Ridge is Dirty Harry in the military—specifically the U.S. Marines.  Eastwood’s attitude is, I am good enough at what I do allowing me to flout the establishment and do my job on my own terms.  We’ve seen this before in Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character–this time he is wearing a U.S. Marine uniform.

 

Eastwood plays the role of an aging but highly decorated Marine sergeant who has a penchant for boozing it up and urinating on police cars.  Tom Highway (Eastwood) has been in the Marine Corps since he was 16, fought in the bloody battle of Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean war, where he was awarded his medal of honor, and did three tours in “Nam.”  Despite his almost three decades in the military, he still has a problem with authority,  hitting officers who he considers “limp dicks,” and disobeying orders that he doesn’t think are appropriate.

 

In the last days before he reaches mandatory retirement, at his request, Highway is transferred back to a combat ready unit.  While he is in transit to his new post, enter Mario Van Peebles (“Stitch Jones”), a Marine who is trying to become the next Elvis.  While at a rest stop Stitch steals Highway’s money and bus ticket.  But Stitch is in for a real problem when Highway turns out to be his platoon leader.  Highway gets paid back and rips an earring out of Stitch’s ear presumably as interest.

 

Naturally Highway repeatedly clashes with his commander, Major Powers, and his flunky, Staff Sergeant Webster (Moses Gunn), over unorthodox training techniques (like firing an AK-47 at his men so they get used to the noise); Powers makes it clear that he views Highway’s platoon as only a training tool for his own elite outfit.  Major Powers goes so far as to script “ambushes” by making Highway’s Recon platoon nothing more than targets.  However, Highway is supported by an old comrade-in-arms, Sergeant Major Choozoo (Arlen Dean Snyder), and a college educated but inexperienced Lieutenant Ring (Boyd Gaines).  Once Highway’s disciplinary methods set in and the men learn that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor they gain respect for him and close ranks against Major Powers, their perceived enemy.

 

Then the unit gets the call to participate in the 1983 invasion of Grenada.  Though in reality a giant screw up by the Unites States, Highway et al are competent and even creative soldiers who achieve their mission objectives quite well.  Two scenes are lifted from the real invasion of Grenada; they are the scenes where Highway orders Stitch Jones to use a bulldozer to provide cover so they can advance on and destroy an enemy machine gun nest.  When Highway and his men are trapped in a building by enemy forces without any means of communication, they use a telephone to make a long distance call to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in order to call in air support using a credit card supplied by Stitch Jones.  No joke, the invasion was so screwed up that trapped units had to use a credit card to place a long distance call.

Needless to say when the troops come back home, they are met with cheering crowds—a first for Highway.

 

What is really interesting about this movie is not the movie, but the events that surrounded and inspired the film.  There was a battle for Heartbreak Ridge fought between September 13 and October 15, 1951. The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge was one of several major engagements in an area known as “The Punchbowl.”  The battle took place in the hills of North Korea and both sides suffered high casualties: over 3,700 American and French soldiers and an estimated 25,000 North Korean and Chinese.

 

Originally Eastwood pitched the movie to the U.S. Army, which refused to participate, due to Highway being portrayed as a hard drinker, divorced from his wife, and using unapproved motivational methods to his troops, and obscene dialogue.  However, Eastwood went to the Marine Corps, which allowed much of the filming to be done at Camp Pendleton.  There are some differences though; the Recon Marines highway commands are on a par with Army Rangers or Special Forces.  The military also stated it would be entirely implausible for an elite Marine Recon unit to be populated with slackers and misfits as portrayed in the film.

 

Like I said in the beginning, this film is Dirty Harry enlists in the Marines.  But hey if you are a Dirty Harry fan you’ll be a fan of Heartbreak Ridge.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Rip Torn, Richard (“Shaft”) Roundtree, Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds in “City Heat” (1984) or City Heat—better turn on the air conditioning to watch this one.

Since we are transitioning from our tribute to Burt Reynolds to Rip Torn, City Heat was the first movie that came to mind.  It has Reynolds and Torn as well as what looks on paper to be a strong supporting cast.  Until I watched this film again to write this review, I forgot just how bad this movie really is.

City Heat is a 1984  (purportedly) action-comedy film. Pairing Eastwood and Reynolds in a Prohibition-era action-comedy probably looked like a good idea at the time and it did make money in spite of itself (earning $38,300,000 at the box office on a $25,000,000 budget).

Set in Kansas City in 1933, a police lieutenant known simply by his last name, Speer (Eastwood), is acquainted with your template former cop turned private eye named Mike Murphy (Reynolds).  Of course Speer and Murphy served on the force together and were once good friends, but now can’t stand each other.  Oh, we are just setting this one up for some hilarious scenes with this original story line.  Be that as it may, these two chums have eyes for Murphy’s secretary Addy.  Addy loves both and (tries) to prove it when she kisses Murphy goodbye and then goes on a date with Speer.  Murphy, however,  has a new romantic interest in a  rich socialite type named Caroline Howley (Madeline Kahn).  Speer takes Addy to a boxing match on his date at which the mob boss Primo Pitt (Torn) is present. Murphy’s partner Dehl Swift (Richard “Shaft” Rountree) is also there and is sucking up to Pitt and his gang.  Swift has a briefcase that Pitt and his boys want—badly.

Without skipping a beat, Swift is shot by Pitt’s thugs who are there to get the case, but there’s nothing inside.  One of the goons throws Swift’s body out of the window and lands on the roof of Speer’s car.  As is required in all police-action-comedies, Murphy vows revenge on Pitt for killing his partner.  He asks Speer for assistance and they form a reluctant alliance.

After a lot of needless filler, final showdowns occur in a warehouse, where Speer “humorously” pulls out a weapon larger than Murphy’s, and in a brothel, where Murphy shows up in costume.  Again, this film category requires that the men again have become friends, at least until a casual remark leads to them stepping outside and bickering, face to face.

I can’t think of another cliché that could have been added to this movie, although I have been trying. If you can come up with one, please send it to me in a comment. After all, the film already contains such original subplots and devices as an about to be dead guy who is warned by his girlfriend ahead of time “Dehl, don’t do this,” a girlfriend who is kidnapped and held hostage by gangsters (in fact every woman in the movie is kidnapped by gangsters at some point), gangsters in search of “goods” that must be delivered in a suitcase, a P.I. who eats dinner every night in the same diner, the bathtub gin stored under the sink, a devoted secretary who never leaves her post even at night (as a sole proprietor myself I have to wonder how he pays her), Congressmen turning up in a brothel, gangsters who spend all their spare time playing poker, a henchman named “Lefty”…the list could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Likewise, the running gags in City Heat come to a complete standstill. For example, it quickly stops being funny to hear Reynolds ask, after someone bursts in a door, “doesn’t anybody ever knock?”

This movie had problems both on and off the set.  Reynolds seriously injured his jaw, the morons at the marketing department opened “City Heat” against “Beverly Hills Cop,” and Eddie Murphy cleaned the clocks of both Eastwood and Reynolds.  Reynolds would never be a top star again. Adding insult to injury, the ad tag line “The Heat is On!” first used by “City Heat” was shifted to “Beverly Hills Cop” (and to Glen Fry’s song) when “City Heat” mercifully disappeared from theaters.

I’ll almost always take a good story over “stars” and if you ever needed proof that superstars aren’t as important as a good screenplay then look to City Heat.  Apparently Blake Edwards (Pink Panther Series) was set to direct this movie but got fired sometime during the filming because he couldn’t agree with the two stars on what this film’s end product should look like a/k/a “creative differences.” Maybe the loss of Edwards was a material factor in the abortion this film turned out to be, but whatever the reason it’s doubtful you’ll see Eastwood in a worse movie.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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