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 Forty Three: Rebel in Town
I was drawn to this film because of the involvement of one person: John Payne. Haven’t heard of him? You should have. Everyone who loves movies should have in my opinion. An actor who fit Film Noir just as well as he fit the Western, John Payne brings a blue collar yet sharp and nuanced performance to every movie I’ve seen him in. If his name pops up on Amazon Prime, I’m watching it.
So what about this one? I’m glad I queued it up. Not only does Payne deliver as usual but the story is quite good. The post Civil War set up with anxiety about rogue rebels feels predictable at first but then the tale takes you places you didn’t see coming. The boy getting shot in the first ten minutes is shocking; it’s filmed in a way that recalls the violence in modern films more than those of the era. Furthermore, the characterization of the Confederate family contrasted with Payne’s shows the grey (no pun intended) area most films stray away from.
A couple things didn’t work for me though. Payne’s wife, played by Ruth Roman, is a poorly written character and the actress can’t save the part. The woman is against her husband chasing renegades from the start… I get it but then her boy is shot to death by one and this doesn’t change her mind? Not even a little? She shows no growth as a character through the story; just a straight line in the dirt and a shallow one at that. I think they could have done a lot more with her and because of this flaw, Payne’s journey is not quite right either.
Regardless, the film has a lot of good in it: tension, moral conflict, distinct characters, and ambiguity. If you like old Westerns, add it to the list. If you don’t know John Payne’s work, start watching and maybe you’ll see what I do.
Seen on Amazon Prime