“Why don’t we just take a walk and we’ll just talk about the Wild West and how to get the hell out of it?”
A rustler (Jack Nicholson) and his men seek revenge against a local rancher (John McLiam) who has hung one of their teammates, but must deal with an eccentric “regulator” (Marlon Brando) sent to take care of them.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Arthur Penn Films
- Frederic Forrest Films
- Harry Dean Stanton Films
- Jack Nicholson Films
- Marlon Brando Films
- Randy Quaid Films
Titled after “a forlorn and very rugged area of north-central Montana, where over eons, the Missouri River has made countless deep cuts or ‘breaks’ in the land,” this unique western — directed by Arthur Penn — is perhaps best known for Brando’s highly improvised, off-script performance as Robert E. Lee Clayton, a “regulator” (I hadn’t heard that term before) hired to take care of rustlers. Lang Thompson of TCM refers to him as “one of the weirdest characters who ever prowled the Wild West,” noting he “has an Irish brogue, takes baths at the oddest times, recites love poems to his horse, occasionally dresses in drag…, and has a knack for ingenious murders (he commits one with a harpoon in the shape of a crucifix).”
Nicholson is a fine foil for Brando, and is given a lovely, unexpected romance with Braxton’s conflicted daughter (Kathleen Lloyd).
The rest of the supporting cast is excellent as well — including Harry Dean Stanton as Nicholson’s right hand man:
… Katherine Lloyd as Nicholson’s love interest:
… and Frederic Forrest as Cary, who meets an especially undignified death.
While it’s not must-see viewing, it’s well worth a look by western fans or fans of the stars.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Strong performances by the cast
- Many oddly quirky moments
- Fine period design
- Michael Butler’s cinematography
- John Williams’ interesting score
No, but it’s definitely worth a look as a unique western. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.