“Honest men stay honest only as long as it pays — that’s why I’m a thief, and you’re a liar.”
With the help of his deputies, a politically ambitious marshall (Kirk Douglas) captures notorious outlaw Jack Strawhorn (Bruce Dern), and uses his victory to campaign for more votes as U.S. senator — but when Strawhorn eludes his grasp, Douglas finds his political future once again on shaky ground.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Bruce Dern Films
- Cat and Mouse
- Kirk Douglas Films
Kirk Douglas’s revisionist western (he produced, directed, and co-starred) offers a cynical look at the intersection of politics and crime in the American West, with Douglas’s aspiring senator (Nightingale) and Dern’s crafty outlaw (Strawhorn) representing two sides of the same self-serving coin. Because Nightingale is clearly using his pursuit of Strawhorn for political purposes — and because Strawhorn’s capture is framed as a veritable media frenzy which leads to even more “corruption” (Nightingale’s posse takes advantage of their “moment of glory” to bed the star-struck women of Tesota) — it’s relatively easy to start rooting for Strawhorn, who’s clever enough from scene one to warrant our continued attention. The entire film is essentially an extended cat-and-mouse chase, in which — thanks to Strawhorn’s remarkable guile — the tables are turned again and again; just when the game looks to be over, it’s not. While Posse‘s ending isn’t entirely plausible, the point is clearly made that loyalty is relative, and that looking out for one’s best interests doesn’t always fall on the right side of the law.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Bruce Dern as Jack Strawhorn — as always, Dern’s performance alone makes this unusual sleeper worth a look
- Kirk Douglas as Howard Nightingale
- Fred Koenekamp’s cinematography
- Maurice Jarre’s memorable score
No, but it’s recommended.