The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood, 1976)
A Missouri farmer joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family.
When one starts to gaze Westerns he’ll be headed towards the Sergio Leone Man With No name trilogy. They defined Clint Eastwood has an actor with his few words, his squinting eyes, and his face almost always in the shadow of his hat. Leone’s films also forged Eastwood as a director and even if it is at a more personal level, and one could states to a lesser one too, the Eastwood Westerns have a lot to do with Leone’s.
Opening a lot like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon A Time in The West, our central character Josey Wales (Eastwood) loses his family to rape and murder by Red path Union soldiers. In his epic Western, Wales seeks for revenge and inner peace. With the execution of his escape and revenge Wales will encounter an aging Indian, a young Navajo woman, and a proud family. This sometimes comic and other times tragic tale depicts how Eastwood renders a Western that reminds the cinematic grandeur of Sergio Leone’s mise en scène and storytelling with more modest means but still quite interesting. But, it’s only bits and pieces that recalls Eastwood’s master and sadly it gives an uneven film that doesn’t even comes close to his Unforgiven.
It is an archetype of Eastwood’s American Westerns and it is also a film amongst the many directing credits that will populate his filmography. It is above his average ones but the lack of color and sensibility delivers a maladroit movie on the emotion side and it minimizes its length when it comes to its appreciation. As a director, I find Eastwood to be a hit or miss crafter and I prefer him as an actor under the lead of a Don Siegel or a Sergio Leone. The quantity of films he directed can be explained by his fast execution of the shooting of scenes and a very methodic director. He is, in fact, a very efficient director and he seems to have endless energy when it comes to work ethics. Those are qualities producers appreciate, and he is more often than not a sure shot at the box office.
Besides its flaws, The Outlaw Josey Wales stands as a very good Western starring one of the most iconic Western icons of all time. Eastwood uses and develops many of his recurrent themes with Josey Wales and even if the film wasn’t nearly as great as Unforgiven or Gran Torino, it still stands as one of Eastwood’s Top 10 directorial efforts out of 35.