Some extraordinary talents assembled to make a very ordinary film in JOE KIDD. Considering that actor Eastwood had just been named NATO "Male Star of the Year," that director Sturges had been responsible for THE GREAT ESCAPE and BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, and that screenwriter Leonard has since become a cover story for Time magazine, it's amazing that together they managed to put out such a routine, sluggish film. Eastwood is, for the umpteenth time, the Mysterious Stranger. He comes in 1900 to the New Mexican town of Sinola, where Saxon is leading the local Mexican-Americans in a protest against the illegal acquisition of their land by monied interests. The land was part of the Spanish grants, and the poor folks are being driven off it through a tangle of legalities. Eastwood, in jail after a drunken spree, watches as Saxon's crowd, enraged by the judge (Carter) who refuses to listen to their woes, steals the forged land grants from the courthouse and sets them on fire. The rebels are about to kidnap the judge, but he's saved by Eastwood. A posse is formed, and Eastwood is invited to join it but refuses. Now Duvall, a mean land owner with a thirst for blood, offers
Eastwood $500 to join the posse, and Eastwood declines again. Later he learns that his own small ranch has been raided and that Saxon's men have injured a ranch hand. Duvall ups the offer to $1,000, and this time Eastwood goes along. The posse which includes Stroud, a sadistic sharpshooter captures Garcia, one of Saxon's people. They then take more Mexican-Americans hostage and threaten to kill five of them unless Saxon surrenders. Eastwood is becoming convinced that Duvall's tactics are cruel. Meanwhile, he and Garcia are falling for each other. Duvall, seeing a potential problem, has Eastwood thrown into jail, but he escapes with a weapon supplied by Hern, the local padre. Then Eastwood arranges Stroud's death, saves the hostages, and takes Garcia to Saxon's hideaway. He is chagrined, however, by Saxon's willingness to sacrifice the hostages' lives rather than be imprisoned himself. Eastwood captures Saxon, planning to take him back to town to stand trial, but Duvall wants the man dead before that. In a scene not unlike the one in his later film THE GAUNTLET, Eastwood delivers Saxon to the cowardly sheriff, Walcott, by riding a locomotive into town, off the tracks, and into the saloon. Duvall and Eastwood have a shoot-out, and Eastwood hands Saxon to Walcott before riding back to what's left of his ranch with Garcia. The story sounds better than it played. It was "presented by" long-time Universal studio executive Jennings Lang and holds the dubious distinction of being one of Eastwood's lowest grossers. Bad editing, uninspired direction, and a script that teetered precariously on the verge of parodying a John Wayne movie combined to make JOE KIDD nothing more than a plodding shoot-em-up. This real opportunity to strike a blow for the downtrodden Mexican-Americans missed by miles.
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- Released: 1972
- Rating: PG
- Review: Some extraordinary talents assembled to make a very ordinary film in JOE KIDD. Considering that actor Eastwood had just been named NATO "Male Star of the Year," that director Sturges had been responsible for THE GREAT ESCAPE and BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, and… (more)