I cannot claim to be a big fan of westerns, but some are so incredible that they belong in the must-watch pile of any movie lover. It took long time for me to gain an appreciation for the genre, and I am sure in time it will continue to grow. The movie that won me over was Tombstone. Although it is a relatively recent film, we all have to start somewhere, right?
As I have continued to watch more westerns, the one name that always draws me is Clint Eastwood. The man is the prototypical bad ass cowboy. This time around I have found his 1976 film, The Outlaw Josey Wales. I found it to be a good, not great film, interesting but not as involving as I had expected it to be.
Josey Wales is the second western to be directed by Eastwood, after 1973's High Plains Drifter. This movie sees Eastwood stepping from the shadow of the spaghetti westerns he made with Sergio Leone in the 1960s. Eastwood's character doesn't quite live in the grey space of, say, A Fistful of Dollars, but he does retain much of the complexity shown there. Josey Wales is neither good guy nor bad guy. Having lost much of what he values in life, Josey is driven by revenge, and the film chronicles his journey as he tries to regain himself.
The movie starts with Josey's wife and young son being brutally murdered while he is unable to do anything. It is a great loss, robbing him of his identity, before we even know what that identity is. With this tragedy in his rear view mirror, he sets out for revenge and death.
Along the way he meets a series of characters, both good and bad as Josey navigates a changing post-Civil War world. Choosing to be an outlaw rather than swear allegiance next to the men who took his family from him, he would rather welcome death, once his guns are wrenched from his corpse.