Gauntlet, The (1977)

“You see, we’ve got a problem, you and me: we don’t like each other much, but we have to take a trip together.”

Synopsis:
A cop (Clint Eastwood) is tasked by his superior (William Prince) with escorting a key witness (Sondra Locke) back to headquarters — but he soon finds himself and his feisty charge under fire at every turn.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that much like “John Ford became disenchanted with the military, as his later films indicate”, The Gauntlet — Eastwood’s sixth outing as a director — represents his “growing disenchantment with cops… because they will happily turn on one another if ordered to do so”. Indeed, this film is far from policedom’s finest moment, given that it presents all cops as either under-performing (Eastwood), hopelessly crooked (Prince), smarmy (Bill McKinney, in an effective supporting turn), naive (Pat Hingle as Eastwood’s partner), and/or brainless (i.e., the hundreds of faceless automaton cops opening fire on demand). As Peary notes, “the picture isn’t altogether successful” (there are plenty of silly sequences — such as a lame encounter with motorcyclists in a gorgeous Nevada desertscape), but “the infighting between Locke and Eastwood is interesting primarily because she… proves to have more street smarts than he”. He further argues that director Eastwood “proves to have a true understanding of Locke’s talents, letting her run the gamut of emotions”, noting that “she can be impressive” — which is true.

However, I disagree with Peary’s assertion that there are “too many action sequences featur[ing] thousands of bullets being shot at structures”. It’s these over-the-top, utterly implausible, but undeniably rousing shoot-em-up scenes — such as the early scene in which so many bullets are fired at Locke’s house that it eventually collapses onto itself; cool! — that quickly turn our protagonists into sympathetic characters. Eastwood and Locke are on the run from forces clearly so much larger and stronger than themselves that they can’t help but eventually be propelled into each others’ arms. After all, you can only face imminent death so many times without starting to feel something for the person you’re fighting for your life with, can you?

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Sondra Locke as Gus
  • Plenty of exciting (if utterly implausible — but who cares?!) action sequences

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly recommended for one-time viewing, and a must for Eastwood fans.

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