Sondra Locke's finest hour
James D. Leverton | San Marcos, CA USA | 08/12/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I read years ago that "The Gauntlet" was originally intended to feature the star matchup of Clint Eastwood and Barbra Streisand, but after Eastwood was warned by the Warner Bros. brass of La Streisand's diva tantrums on the set of "A Star is Born" he nixed the idea and cast his "Josey Wales" costar Sondra Locke instead. Admittedly, a Eastwood-Streisand matchup would have made this film a major blockbuster instead of the solid hit it was, but I'm glad it never happened. The pair would probably have had no chemistry whatsoever and Streisand would have been unbearably shrill in the role of "two bit hooker" Gus Malley. Besides, Locke is excellent in the role and proves a terrific sparring partner for Eastwood. Yes, her subsequent pairings with the legend were less than satisfactory, but for one bright shining moment, Locke's talent would shine brightly.
"The Gauntlet" actually works strictly because of the Eastwood/Locke chemistry and not because of the unbelievable plot. Eastwood plays Ben Shockley, a self-described "dumbass cop" and alcoholic who is sent by Phoenix's shady new police commissioner Blakelock (William Prince) to Las Vegas to extradite Malley, who is the only witness to a mob trial. It becomes obvious from the start that Shockley has been set up and by whom, and the two don't even make it to the airport before they are being chased across the desert by mob assassins. You'll figure out who's behind everything long before Shockley, but for once, his ineptitude makes sense, since he was sent to do the job because of it. The plot turns when Shockley figures it out and decides to prove the brass wrong by delivering Malley to the steps of Phoenix city hall, providing he can get through the impenetrable barrier (or "gauntlet") of policemen sent to stop him.
Like I said, the plot is unbelievable. Shockley and Malley dodge so many bullets and escape so many sure death circumstances a total suspension of belief is required to fully enjoy the nonsense. And the final five minutes is stupid beyond belief, since we are asked to believe the entire Phoenix police force would stand by and watch three people being shot and do absolutely nothing. However, the film is fast-paced and the action scenes are expertly mounted and the film never drags for a single moment in 109 minutes. Eastwood directs with economy and style and with tongue firmly placed in cheek, and for once, the lightning pacing many have yearned for in his recent, more leisurely paced films. And the performances are universally excellent, especially by Locke, Pat Hingle as Shockley's concerned partner-turned-patsy, Michael Cavanaugh as a seemingly sympathetic assistant district attorney, and '70's Eastwood regular Bill McKinney, who is absolutely hilarious as a smarmy constable taken hostage by the desperate pair. In fact, anyone who thinks Locke can't act should watch the expert interplay between her and McKinney when he decides to have fun insulting her and she turns the tables on him, twisting the screws until he explodes. This scene alone is worth the price of of the DVD, and it should serve as a rebuttal to Locke detractors everywhere. I also liked the subtle way Eastwood and Locke's relationship turns from adversarial to actual love and affection. Nowhere in the script is there a specific moment where they fall in love, they just do, and they make the transition believable strictly through their interplay.
The film makes great use of Nevada/Arizona locations and has a terrific jazz score by Jerry Fielding, who heavily borrows from gospel standards like "A Closer Walk (my Lord to Thee)." In fact, the film is littered with religious symbolism, but why is a mystery. In all, the entire production is a solid, professional piece of work by the entire Eastwood team at Malpaso. And while it will never be considered in the same class as such top-drawer Eastwood directorial efforts as "Outlaw Josey Wales," "Unforgiven," and "Mystic River," it remains to this day a solid entertainment that seems to improve with each viewing, just as long as you shut your brain off completely at the end.
As for the DVD, WHV has done better. However, at least it's in panavision widescreen instead of the pan-and-scan that the VHS copies contain. And could we have a little more than the standard theatrical trailers for extras? All in all, it rates ***1/2 (out of *****)
for the film and **1/2 for the DVD presentation.
A Solid Eastwood Vehicle
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 04/22/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Though it gets lost in the "Dirty Harry" shuffle, "The Gauntlet" (1977) is an underrated action drama with more emphasis on characterization than bullets. In a change-of-pace role, Clint Eastwood plays a down-and-out Phoenix cop who faces seemingly impossible odds - and endless corruption - when he is assigned to escort a Las Vegas prostitute (Sondra Locke) to trial. Needless to say, Clint's slimy boss (William Prince) wants to make sure he doesn't get the job done. Stylishly directed by Eastwood, the film moves at a fast clip and benefits from strong performances. Interestingly, Eastwood's character fires his gun only twice and never kills anyone. The elaborate climax is a bit ludicrous (why don't the Phoenix officers shoot out the bus tires?), yet "The Gauntlet" remains on-target most of the way. A must-see for Eastwood fans."
This Is My Gun, Clyde!
Scott T. Rivers | 02/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Another great Clint cop movie. I remember seeing it when it was in the movie theatre with my friends. I felt the picture and sound quality on the DVD was just fine for a movie from that time. A great addition to my Clint collection."
Great Blu-ray transfer
S. Fischer | USA | 02/22/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I usually don't comment on movies, but this one is especially noteworthy for Eastwood fans. For a movie that was shot in 1977, the Blu-ray picture transfer on this movie is excellent. Since there was no such thing as DTS Master Audio in 1977, or even digital audio for that matter, the sound quality is therefore mediocre at best but it's still watchable. Unless it's under $10 bucks, I generally never buy Blu-ray movies that were not originally shot on HD equipment. These old transfers are kind of like handing a mechanic a blow torch and telling them to turn an old Volkswagen into a Ferrari. Anything before 2006 will never be a true 100% Blu-ray quality movie, but if you like The Gauntlet it's worth buying the Blu-ray version."