on March 27, 2004
Although Clint Eastwood gained his greatest critical acclaim as a director for 1992's "Unforgiven" and 2003's "Mystic River" -- both of which are incredible pieces of American cinema -- his best film remains this perennially popular Western from 1976. Here's Eastwood's own take on it: "I do believe that if I'd made that picture in 1992, in place of 'Unforgiven,' it might have received the same amount of attention, because I think it's equally as good a film. I think the subject matter of 'Josey Wales' is timeless." Orson Welles himself named it one of his favorite movies!
Yet critics at the time completely dismissed it as just another Clint Eastwood Western-Revenge flick. On the surface, the plot might give you that illusion: Missouri farmer Josey Wales loses his family to marauding Union cutthroats during the civil war. In retaliation, he joins Qunatrill's raiders in the guerrilla warfare that flames across Missouri. When the war ends, Wales refuses to surrender. He flies west across the country, chased by his former leader Fletcher (John Vernon in a great, sympathetic performance) and Terrill, the Union captain who murdered his family (Eastwood regular Bill McKinney). It seems Wales has no future except to stay alive long enough to get his revenge.
But...that's not at all what movie ends up being about. Gradually, Wales finds himself at the center of a growing community of outcasts from many different backgrounds: an old Cherokee named Lone Watie (Chief Dan George, in the film's most unforgettable performance), a band of Northern settlers (including Sondra Locke in her first role with Clint), a girl from another Native American tribe, the residents of a dying Texas town, and a red bone hound. Gradually, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" turns into a story about forgetting revenge and a fixation on death, and instead about embracing life and rebuilding a community. "Dying is easy for men like you and me," Wales says to a Comanche chief (Will Sampson) in one scene. "It's living that's hard." It's one of the most unexpectedly uplifting and moving films ever made. And, let's make no mistake about it, it's also an action-packed, tough, and exciting film.
Strangely, the film came out of extremely difficult circumstances and rough beginnings. Eastwood purchased the rights to Forrest Carter's novel "Gone to Texas," only to discover that the author was actually Asa (Ace) Carter, who had worked as a speech writer for George Wallace supporting racial segregation and had once created a subgroup of the Ku Klux Klan. Upon meeting Carter, Eastwood and his producer Robert Daley found the man to be a borderline sociopath (he drew a knife on one of Daley's secretaries at a restaurant). Regardless, Eastwood loved the beautiful story too much and pushed on with making the film. He hired Philip Kaufman to both write and direct the movie, now re-named "The Outlaw Josey Wales." Kaufman (along with Sonia Chernus) wrote a stunning script, but after only a few days on the set, it became obvious he wasn't working out as a director; his style clashed with Eastwood's. Eastwood quietly removed him as director and took over the job himself. As Eastwood's biographer notes, "Kaufman was to a degree the victim of Clint's growing confidence in his own abilities."
Despite this confused beginning, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" turned into a magical piece of Western cinema and a huge hit with audiences. It gets better and better with each viewing: a thrilling adventure when you first see it, its many layers of beautiful subtlety emerge each time you go back to it. Bruce Surtees's photography is astonishing, Jerry Fielding's music exciting and unusual for a Western, and every performance top-notch. Few films are as all-around well done as this American classic.
The DVD offers the film in a glorious widescreen transfer with a new 5.1 sound mix, but there are no extras. Considering the history behind the making of the film, this disc really ought to sport some fascinating commentaries and documentaries, but alas, nothing. Still, I can recommend few films higher than "The Outlaw Josey Wales."
on December 31, 2015
Perhaps the finest movie ever made. Historically accurate, cowboy and farmer values, the good guys win, the bad gets it slowly and many lines are classics for life's lessons. "When things look bad and it looks like you're not going to make it......."
on July 25, 2011
I bought The Outlaw Josey Wales blu-ray from amazon canada during the Postal industrial action,so my delivery was a bit late,nobody,s fault,jeez was it worth waiting for.I,m not going to give a review of the film itself,everybody know,s Josey Wales,one of thee very best western,s ever,great entertainment,IMO.
The blu-ray transfer is nothing short of MAGNIFICENT!!!!!!!! Picture Quality AND Audio,Josey Wales on blu-ray is a sight to see,absolutely stunning,HIGHLY RECOMMENDED,it,s almost a reference disc for the blu-ray format,Warners have done a brilliant job with this transfer,now lets go for Jeremiah Johnson!!!!
The Outlaw Josey Wales blu-ray is a MUST-BUY!!!!!!!
on October 21, 2012
Here we are reviewing the films of the retrospective film edition offered to the public by Clint Eastwood, many of which were produced by his company, and what other film star has produced so many of his own films. The previous film scene marked a breakthrough for clint, and as the bonus material said his vision and values, evinced in The Bridges of Madison County, which did well among younger viewers, as well as his older fans. Love in that film is seen as a "mystery pure and absolute." As one reviewer stated on the bonus track an "iconic" film. Here we are in "Outlaw JOsey WAles" which is a hybrid film, bringing in several elements well blended by the writer a gunman on the run during the civil war and there is constant mention of sanctuary in Mexico, but he is an innocent man like a John Grisham novel, and decides to come in an dfight it out. This film really is about the innocent and their suffering, graphically displayed by director Eastwood, including a savage rape scene by a group of thugs, and this scene alone stays in your mind as he makes his way to kill the union officer, and slowly and excruciatingly puts the sword in him and slowly pulls it out...and thats the basis of the film those two images, group rape and vengeance and there's also an Indian chief who dramatically tells all that's wrong with the 19th century world and gives traditional Indian gripes, or are they just Indian gripes?, and then there's a final shootout among many images of crosses like "the bridges of madison County" and this is a film infused with violence, much as the human mind of these characters and their world and vengeance, although the cross is a christian image, this is played lightly is it a symbol of suffering of the innocent victims and they're scattered throughout this film...the film was supposed to be directed by the scenarist but clint took it over, and view his bonus material and introduction of the film, many of the reviewers are beginning to complain of mythic qualities he seems to be building..perhaps films which bring a literary character and more intelligence and depth to a film is not a bad thing...the films are increasing seen in a world context and not just located in the U.S. close to Mexico, which is always a good thematic avenue for clint to explore, and viewers enjoyed this film a s I did too when viewed again. Encore!! Good look at innocence betrayed and retribution! Or is it justice or vigilanteism?
on June 12, 2004
Clint Eastwood's movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales, is a classic in the Western genre. This movie is one of the best Western movies that I have ever seen.
The story of the movie goes like this. Josey Wales(Clint Eastwood) is a peaceful farmer in Missouri with a family in the middle of the Civil War. One day some Union Soldiers burn down his house (with his son in it) and kidnap his wife. Angry and Furious, Josey Wales joins some confederate guerillas and fights hard. When Confederacy surrenders, Josey Wales refuses and heads west. He travels to Texas and along the way picks up odd group: couple of Native Americans, an Old Grandmother, a beautiful woman and two servants. At the same time they are chased by Union soldiers.
I will not reveal the story further. However, what makes this movie a classic is the depth and dimension to the characters and superb action.
The character of Josey Wales is really complex. He turns from a peaceful farmer to a tobacco chewing, hell raising, gunslinger. However his humane side is seen through his hard attitude at times. He saves a native american girl from couple of scoundrels. He also saves travelers from another group of bandits. At the same time, he is a tobacco spitting hard man. Josey Wales spits on everything, from a scorpio to a union officer. The other characters are not as intensely developed, which is understandable since Josey Wales is the primary focus of the movie.
The action in the movie is just amazing. I will summarize three great scenes which will make you, the reader, want to just watch the movie. In first scene Josey Wales is carrying food and confronted by four soldiers... In another one Josey Wales(and his six-shooter) all by himself is up against 10-15 bandits...In the last one, Josey Wales and his Six-shooter, go toe-to-toe against tens of horse-riding soldiers...
I will leave the action for you to watch.
Also this movie is directed by Eastwood himself. He is as good as a director as he is as an actor.
FYI: This movie is based on the book "Gone to Texas".
on May 28, 2004
Some 16 years before the Oscar laden and equally brilliant "Unforgiven", this movie is seen by many as one of Clint Eastwoods finest movies, particularly in the Western genre. Playing the title role himself, we meet Josey Wales, a quiet farmer, abruptly thrown into the civil war after his land and family are attacked by Union soldiers, who joins up with the confederate fight in an almost guerilla / mercenary way. The civil War aspect of the story is little more than an opening skirmish however, as it is the subsequent fugitive aspect of the character that moves us through most of the picture. I have to disagree with those that think this is just a revenge movie, or that a single viewing is all one can manage, as the story unfolds in a multi faceted way with each succesive viewing, despite the viewer knowing the ending. Wales comes to be the guiding scout and protector to an unlikely and very mixed bag of characters (all played with sound realism)as he is continually and almost reluctantly hounded by his former ally Fletcher. Charged with hunting him down, Fletcher (played with a salty almost poetic grace by John Vernon) must accompany a band of "red leg" Union soldiers, with more than questionable morality, to the border and this long pursuit helps the picture move at an even pace. Add some interesting subplots, commancheros, some imaginative and lively characters (with many of Eastwoods regular screen stars in various roles)and the overall effect is just right, without trying to be moralistic. Often brutal in it's depiction of the "wild" west, and at times graphically violent keeps the deserved R rating, but some moments of comedy and pathos bring an unmistakable Eastwood handprint of direction, without overtaking the excellent story or script. Already widely received as a classic piece of filmaking, it has stood the test of time extremely well, and has become one of the movies that have benchmarked the genre since it's release almost thirty years ago. Extremely enjoyable movie.
on August 28, 2003
Note: This review gives great detail about the plot that some may wish to see for themselves.
When his family is savagely butchered; his house is burnt to the ground by 'Redlegs' (Rebel Union soldiers), Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) puts his sharp-shooting skills to good use by joining up with rebel Confederate soldiers fighting to rid the land of them. When the soldiers exhaust and decide to pledge their adherence to the Union, Joey Wales stays behind, and sees that the Redlegs have set them up. As each of the men are being shot down, Josey rides in a kills off many Redlegs and flees. With a price on his head, he rides in the direction of Texas, fighting off anyone who stands in his way.
Also directed by Clint Eastwood, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" is a lengthy and often tedious post-civil war western. It contains exciting (yet brutal) shootouts and situations, and is supported with a very likeable performance by Chief Dan George, who plays an introspective indigenous fellow and Sondra Locke. The film is hurt somewhat by dryer stretches and often silly dialogue.
Overall rating: 3.7 stars (rounded to 4)
Rated PG: Contains fierce graphic violence including a rape scene with nudity, occasional rough language, and frequent tobacco-usage. Not recommended for children under 13.
on July 16, 2003
Josey Wales wanted nothing more than to live peacefully with his family on his homestead. That was, until he got caught up in the "Bleeding Kansas" affair when his wife and son were murdered. Suddenly, Josey finds himself riding with Bloody Bill Anderson, fighting as a guerilla. After the war, Josey finds himself a man without a home, as his band surrenders and he is left alone to fend for himself and defy the Union army. As he travels, his past continues to haunt him, and he finds redemption only in aiding various people in distress.
The Outlaw Josey Wales is a masterpiece in the Western and Civil War genres. There is plenty of violence to satisfy Eastwood fans, and plenty of shots of Eastwood scowling. But the movie is more than just a repetition of 'spit on something, kill someone, repeat.' Josey is haunted, and that becomes more and more apparent as the movie progresses. The power of this film lies in its portrait of Josey as a man left without a cause. This isn't the finest Western out there, but it certainly does deserve a place among the best. Superbly directed (by Eastwood) and with a fine cast, this movie is a classic.
on June 27, 2003
Clint Eastwood has long been known as a star of Western film-it would not be inaccurate to say that no one else since John Wayne has anywhere near the claim he has on being the definitive Western star of the twentieth century. Writer Garth Ennis (The Preacher) has remarked that "there are two kinds of people in the world: people who like Clint Eastwood movies, and dweebs." Ennis is mainly referring to Eastwood's Westerns, and rightly so. Classics like Sergio Leone's "Man with No Name" trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) and Eastwood's own Unforgiven bookend an incredible career in Westerns that astonishingly numbers only eleven films over thirty or so years (in addition to the films named above, Eastwood starred in Hang 'Em High, Paint Your Wagon, Two Mules for Sister Sara, Joe Kidd, High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Pale Rider), not counting contemporary films in which he plays Western-esque characters.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) is a personal favorite of mine from childhood, and was the second Western Eastwood directed himself; the first was 1972's High Plains Drifter. It features a compelling story, beautiful cinematography, and a fully realized protagonist. The latter is a welcome change of pace from the characters in the Leone films and High Plains Drifter, who were loners with no name and no past.
Wales is a dirt farmer in Missouri shortly after the Civil War whose wife and young son are murdered by a renegade Union cavalry unit called the Red Legs, under the command of the evil Captain Terrill. Wales falls in with the Missouri Bushwhackers, a group of similar men who ride the Ozarks fighting a guerilla war against the Union even after the War has ended. They are under the command of Fletcher, who persuades them to turn in their guns and surrender to the Union. Only Wales refuses, and only Wales and Fletcher survive-Wales because he flees, Fletcher because he reluctantly betrays his men, who fall before a Gatling gun as they take an oath of allegiance to the Union. When it becomes known that Wales is the lone survivor, a price is put on his head and Terrill and Fletcher set out after him. Wales embarks on a journey that will take him to Texas en route to Mexico, and ultimately to bloody revenge.
Along the way he picks up a few friends: an elderly Cherokee man, a young Apache woman, and a family of Kansas Jayhawkers, including a troubled young woman played by Sondra Locke, Eastwood's longtime live-in companion (this is quite possibly the only role in which I find her even remotely appealing). Eastwood has memorable lines galore and seems to walk around in a perpetual cloud of cordite, spitting tobacco juice on the face of anything and everything around him; in other words, this is a classic.
All in all, this is probably my favorite Clint Eastwood Western, but there is one troubling aspect to the film. The degree to which it acts as an apologist text for the Confederacy can sometimes be a bit much. Anyone from North of the Mason-Dixon line who wants to know how English audiences felt about The Patriot is urged to screen this film-its bias is naked. The Union Army is portrayed as an honorless bunch of ruffians and murderers; the only mention made of slavery is a scene in which the young Native American woman Wales rescues remarks that his actions mean that he now owns her. Wales replies simply that he "doesn't want to own anyone," and the matter is never mentioned again. Considering the source, I suppose this is to be expected. TOJW is based on an at the time unpublished novel entitled Gone to Texas, by Forrest Carter. Carter is better known for his controversial fictitious autobiography The Education of Little Tree (about his imaginary childhood as a Native American boy - guess he forgot he's always been just a hateful Cracker), but his best-known work is probably the speech he wrote for Alabama Governor George Wallace's inauguration, the highlight of which was "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" He also headed a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan at one time. It explains a lot. If you can simply accept the film on its own terms, it certainly will not detract from your enjoyment (at least two of my ancestors fought for the Union, one in a fairly high-ranking position, and it's still a sentimental favorite), but you have been warned.
On the positive side, Warner Home Video's DVD presentation is flawless-the print used was obviously the absolute best that could be found, with excellent sound and color as crisp as the day it premiered. There's nothing much in the way of extras except for a large collection of trailers for other Westerns, but the film itself is gloriously presented in its original aspect ratio and will only set you back about fifteen bucks. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone who collects Western film not to own this film.
Unhappy with the director, Eastwood replaced him while continuing as the lead in what has proven to be one of his most entertaining films. (Five years earlier, he launched his career as a director with Play Misty for Me in which he also starred.) This is one of my favorites among Eastwood's several dozen films because it combines very effectively so many elements of a great story: historical significance, a crisp but unpredictable plot, generally excellent acting, a substantial element of humor, all manner of conflicts and tensions, magnificent scenery, and lots of action. By then (1976), Eastwood had also developed his skill at creating moments of intimacy and tenderness between and among the actors he directed (his interaction with Chief Dan George is especially effective) and is in top form near the end of the film when he finally avenges the deaths of his family members and Confederate comrades, only to be confronted with the possibility of being arrested to stand trial, be convicted, and then imprisoned, if not hanged. The scene in the barren barroom is brief but indelible. I agree with others who are critical of Sondra Locke's acting, not only in this film but in several others. She plays a skittish, jittery, self-conscious young woman named Laura Lee. Fortunately, she has no greater significance in the narrative than do the furniture in the cabin and the wagon that hauled it. What Eastwood accomplishes in Unforgiven (1992) probably would not have been possible had he not developed his skills as a director in this film and in Pale Rider (1985). In my opinion, the best of Eastwood's work as a director of westerns is the equal of Ford and Hawks in their prime.