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losing it at the movies: the gauntlet (clint eastwood, 1977)

The fifth in a series, "Losing It at the Movies," which is explained here.

Pauline Kael was not a fan of Clint Eastwood, but then, he wasn't all that fond of her, either. "Clint asked a psychiatrist to do an analysis of her from her reviews; it concluded that Kael was actually physically attracted to Clint and because she couldn’t have him she hated him." (From Conversations with Clint, quoted by Richard Brody.)

In 5001 Nights at the Movies, Kael wrote of The Gauntlet:

Clint Eastwood, as a slow-witted cop, and Sondra Locke, as the fast-witted hooker he’s bringing back from Las Vegas to testify in a trial in Phoenix, are always in movement. They use a police car, a motorcycle, a train, a bus. A mere whisper of a plot serves as a pretext for shoot-’em-ups with thousands of rounds of ammunition going into whatever buildings or vehicles the cop and the hooker are in or on. At times the whole world seems to be firing at them; buildings and cars are turned to lace. You look at the screen even though there’s nothing to occupy your mind—the way you sometimes sit in front of the TV, numbly, because you can’t rouse yourself for the effort it takes to go to bed.

Honestly, I question why they included an Eastwood movie in the "Losing It" series. Sure, she had an opinion on his movies, but she championed many fine directors ... why waste time with one she didn't like? She famously called Dirty Harry fascist, but there is none of that in The Gauntlet, mostly because while Harry Callahan, fascist or not, is good at his job, Ben Shockley, Eastwood's character here, is kinda dumb. In fact, unbeknownst to him, he is assigned the job of moving the hooker because it's assumed he's too poor a cop to get in the way of the bigger picture he is unaware of. It's fun watching Eastwood play with his character ... he knows there are people in the audience who think he's never acting, and he messes with them here. I'm one who thinks a little of Sondra Locke goes a long way, but she's fairly tolerable here. The only reason The Gauntlet exists is to blow shit up. The trick is that it's largely done with gunfire ... why bomb a building when you can shoot it until it crumples to the ground? You keep thinking something will rise above the pattern of shoot-em-ups, but nothing ever does. If that sounds like a good movie to you, go for it. For me, his best job as a director is Mystic River, his best non-directing movie is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and his most enjoyable film is Bronco Billy.

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