Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Shooting

The Criterion Collection released a DVD containing the 1960s westerns The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind. With that in mind, I watched The Shooting off my DVR to do a full-length post on it here.

Will Hutchins plays Coley, one of four men who were prospecting for gold together somewhere in Arizona. One of the other men, Willet (Warren Oates) returns to find the dim-witted Coley afraid because a third member of their number, Leland, has been murdered. Apparently Leland and the fourth, Will's brother Coin, went to Winslow and got involved in an incident that left somebody dead, so other people (unseen by Coley) came back to the camp looking for revenge. Coin had already fled, so the people shot Leland.

Eventually, Coley and Will hear another gunshot, which might be the folks from Winslow come back to look for Coin. That's not the case, however. It's an unnamed woman (Millie Perkins), who had to shoot her broken-down horse. Except that when Will examines the dead horse, he can't find anything wrong with it. The woman wants to get to Kingsley, and she's willing to pay Will and Coley big bucks to lead her there. Coley, idiot that he is, begins to fall for the woman. So, the three of them set out across the desert.

The woman is obnoxious and keeps shooting her gun for no good reason. Well, actually, there's a good reason. Will figures that the woman must be signaling to somebody. Sure enough, one night another man, hired gun Billy Spear (Jack Nicholson), joins the camp. The woman has been treating Coley badly, but that's nothing compared to the way Billy is about to start treating Coley. The four continue across the desert in pursuit of... well who?

It goes on like this, with the horses slowly being broken down, Billy being increasingly mean to Coley, and Will getting ticked off by Billy's treatment of Coley. Eventually, the trail leads to.... I'm not giving away the ending, other than to say it's not much of an ending.

I had some pretty big problems with The Shooting. It was apparently shot on a limited budget, which would explain the mysterious plot and the paucity of characters. I found the story to be something that, while it has a clear story line, is one that doesn't seem to go anywhere in that everybody is just there instead of having good, clearly-defined motivations for what they do. The characters are in many ways ciphers. And in the ways the characters aren't ciphers, they're annoyingly unlikable. It didn't help that the print I saw looked grainy in spite of its being in the proper aspect ratio as far as I could tell. (The DVR showing was letterboxed which means it was wider than 16:9.)

However, The Shooting is one of those movies that has apparently gained cult status in part due to its back story of never having received a wide theatrical release in the US. So this is definitely one you'll want to watch and judge for yourself.

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