Clint Eastwood directs himself, Chief Dan George and Sondra Locke in this classic western where a deadly Civil War confederate is hunted by the men who raped and killed his family during the war.
What starts out as a red paint for blood violent and satisfying chase movie slowly warps into something warmer, more humorous and humane. Josey might be real good at killing and brutalised by his time in history but he somehow keeps picking up lost souls while on the run. In between shootouts and stand-offs he ends up building a little unintentional replacement family around him and slowly finding a way to exist that doesn’t involve reaching for his irons, unleashing hell. Clint doesn’t just outsmart his pursuers but outthinks the government and criminals who only see murder as a solution. The film stays action packed, never feels heavy handed, even while slyly essaying a way to peace. Damn funny too. Chief Dan George is a hoot and a poor, permanently spat on dog makes for a great running joke. These days are clearly troubled times… I’m not saying what the world is going through now in 2020 is anywhere near as bad as the wounds caused by that Civil War and the Reconstruction… but right now it is about as cataclysmic as the last three generations of Western society have had it. Watching Josey Wales slowly rebuild a life and humanity and community after a period of hate and chaos… and for it not be any big thing gives me more hope for the future than a million memes and untrustworthy news reports. Hell, even Sondra Locke isn’t too annoying here! Life is pretty good.
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