Top critical review
Absolutely Classic Western
on October 1, 2002
The next paragraphs may make it sound like I don't like this movie, because it's predictable - quite the contrary! This is the absolutely classic western story line: Band of hapless miners/farmers/ranchers/shopkeepers/insert-your-favorite-group-here is being harassed by the local big-shot bully, who is generally making their lives miserable and difficult. Loner-type hero rides into town/camp/the ranch, and helps out a main character that's about to get the snot beaten out of him/her. Instantly, The Lone Stranger is elevated to an almost hero-like status, and the miners/townspeople/what-have-you convince him to stay and help them out. Despite the fact that he has no vested interest in these folks, they touch something deep within him, and he knows it's the right thing to do, so he stays.
With somewhat of a heavy hand, it is insinuated that this man is more than he seems - in this case, a preacher with a deadly aim, great fighting skills, and possibly checkered past. Still, he helps miners in their plight against the rich miner who's trying to drive them off of their legal claims, as the miner takes ever more violent strides in his quest. Not only is he evil because of trying to drive off The Decent Folk, but he uses terribly destructive methods to mine for the gold; he yields more ore more quickly, but the area left in his wake is completely destroyed. Of course, at least one of the good miners falls victim to the rich bloke, further steeling everyone's resolve; it's not just A Principle involved, now.
During the course of the film, naturally, the female characters fall in love with the preacher (who has no name, though you're not surprised by that, are you?) but he's just not a man to be had. Why, he's a loner, and he'll always be moving on from place to place, perhaps trying to escape his misdeeds of the past, perhaps trying to reconcile the two halves of himself, perhaps just enjoying a wandering lifestyle. Ah, the romantic West! The final confrontation comes, comprising of a really amusing shootout with 6 corrupt deputies, and then, finally, the preacher confronts his old nemesis, a corrupt marshall.
Still, despite the fact that this is indeed one of America's oldest stories, it's an entertaining movie. Even though you are absolutely certain of what's going to happen, the ride is still a good one. Sometimes, there's comfort to be found in stories we know - hence the rich oral tradition of many cultures, retelling the same story over and over, even though everyone knows how it goes, many sit completely enraptured through it. A story need not be new to be good.
Young Clint Eastwood is great as the preacher (and as the producer/director,) and Michael Moriarty does a wonderful job as well. This is a must-see western, simply for the sake of seeing this particular story well-told.