Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of making my own 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week Eighty Four: Big Jake
I like how this film is set later than most westerns and incorporates motor vehicles, an element that the filmmakers ditch far too early in the story that could have been quite interesting to play with throughout the narrative.
As far as Wayne pictures go, it’s not one of the best but it’s far from being one of his weakest. I credit some of this to Sherman, not a famous director but a studio pro with a lot of Westerns under his belt. The script however meanders too much. I found myself often wandering where things were going and how fast they’d get there. Unlike Rio Bravo, where we could just hangout with Wayne, Martin, Brennan, and Nelson for hours, the team here just doesn’t cut it. Patrick Wayne is wooden. Mitchum’s kid is a bit better but still pretty flat. Cabot brings weight to his role but it’s silly casting. There’s far too many scenes of them all hitting each other. It’s tiresome and not a single one gets a bloody nose or lip!
Now what really impressed me about the film was the final 25 minutes. Suddenly the stakes are high, there’s true suspense and every minute counts. This finale is actually one of the best in Wayne’s work, a bloody-filled battle to save the boy. If what came before was better, this would be a great film.
Seen on Amazon Prime.