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The Outlaw Josey Wales
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Actors: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Chief Dan George, Bill McKinney, John Vernon
Director: Clint Eastwood
Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
PG     1999     2hr 15min

Clint Eastwood fired the original director, Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff), and took over the reins of this project himself. He may have had a point: this brutal, thoughtful western, a near-tragedy about a Civil War vet...  more »


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Member Movie Reviews

Kendra M. (KendraM) from NASHVILLE, TN
Reviewed on 5/19/2008...
The Outlaw Josey Wales is considered by some to be the greatest western. I agree.

A great western should have a collection of strong key elements, and Josey Wales has them all. The setting is the savage Civil War in Missouri and Kansas where atrocities and outrages were perpetrated by irregulars of both sides. Folks at the time called these criminals and guerrillas "bushwackers". The fighting in this theater of the Civil War is not commonly known and was particularly ugly and violent. Most actions were small unit affairs, with people who were well known to one another before the war fighting under opposing flags. Violence and crimes against civilians was common as both legitimate armies used irregulars to terrorize the civilian population. The massacre at Centralia, Missouri, September 27, 1864 was perpetrated by Bloody Bill Anderson and his men. There is no mention of this event in the film, of course, as there could be no sympathy for anyone who had had a part in that abomination.

Josey Wales captures the ugliness and horror of those times and provides a motivator to the title character when his family is murdered by Kansas Union irregulars. Wales is enraged and joins Bloody Bill Anderson's Confederate guerrilla outfit. When the War ends, they are one of the last organized Confederate units to surrender (at least according to the film). Wales' comrades surrender themselves at a Union camp, but Josey refuses. But everything is not as it seems and as the men surrender their arms and take the Oath of Allegiance to the Union, they are viciously murdered in cold blood. It turns out that the same unit that has just killed his fellow Confederates is the very same that had killed his family several years before. And so the chase begins... Wales is now the "Outlaw Josey Wales" running from bounty hunters and every male in the territory with a gun not to mention the Union army.

Josey Wales is played by Clint Eastwood in one his best performances. The character is very much like the "Man with no name" from his Spaghetti Western days. Closer to "Blondie" in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly than the silent gunslinger of "Pale Rider", Wales is essentially a good man driven to revenge and violence by circumstances. He is the everyman of the Civil War dragged into the maelstrom of events. As he runs from his pursuers he picks up a ragtag crew of fascinating characters who ride with him, eventually heading for southern Texas. Along the way there are gunfights, suspense, and lots of action.

A great western should have certain components including:

* beautiful desert scenery
* a good story line
* small ramshackle frontier towns
* a hero or anti-hero with strong and understandable motivations
* guns, ideally pistols
* cool hats
* indians
* lots of horses
* rotten villains

Outlaw Josey Wales was directed by Eastwood, too. Sandra Locke, Chief Dan George, and John Vernon co-star.

Wales is an avenger as he rides across deserts and through broken down frontier towns. He has no options, but to find a place to hide, or just keep on riding forever. Every shooting that involve him is self-defense or in the defense of others who cannot defend themselves. He is a hero, an unsurrendered Confederate partisan, haunted by the senseless murder of his family.

Josey Wales has beautiful scenery, lots of horses and pistols, rotten villains who deserve to get shot (and generally do), suffering innocents who need protection, and one of the coolest hats in American cinema history.

Josey Wales' hat is stained with sweat, it's a deep Confederate Gray with a wide and slightly upturned brim. Eastwood hides his eyes under the brim of this hat, and when he slightly lifts his head to look at someone - they know quickly that Wales is not a man to be trifled with. He has a sense of honor and obligation to others, but has no compunction in shooting those who are hunting him or are fixin' to hurt his friends.

There is a touching moment after Eastwood and his friends have arrived at their Texas destination. Sondra Locke, dressed in a fine white dress, talks about how beautiful the clouds look. She represents the stability, and happiness of his pre-war life and the look of sadness and dissociation that Eastwood delivers is a fine and sad one. After all of his war-fighting, his losses, and the personal toll that the War has taken, Josey Wales must try very hard to find a place for himself in a peaceful and stable post-war environment. Killing is easy now for him; it's living without violence that will be so challenging. One of the more powerful aspects of his character is that he so wants to try.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Clint Eastwood's best movie: an American Classic
Ryan Harvey | Los Angeles, CA USA | 03/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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.""
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 08/09/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"As I am not ordinarily a fan of westerns, I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this film. It was an engrossing and entertaining movie, and, unlike others in this genre, it is an intelligent and well thought out film.The film tells the story of a Missouri farmer who, towards the end of the Civil War, finds his home overrun by renegade union soldiers who set fire to his homestead, kill his wife and son, and leave him for dead. After burying his family, he joins a group of confederate guerillas who have suffered similar tragedies. Ultimately, the war ends and their leader brings them in for surrender, except for Josey Wales, who watches their surrender from afar. Good thing he did not join them, as their surrender turns into an execution by the very same men who had pillaged his home and killed his family.Wales escapes only to be relentlessly hunted down by the very men who had wronged him, as well as by bounty hunters who want that five thousand dollar reward offered for his capture. Wales rides on to escape them, and along his travels acquires a motley entourage whom he befriends and who befriend him. What happens on his journey is classic Eastwood.Clint Eastwood plays his role as a stoic man of few words, while Chief Dan George is an absolute delight as part of Wales' entourage. The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent. Of course, Sandra Locke, as Eastwood's real life main squeeze at the time, got star billing, even though her role was one of the smaller ones and her performance the least impressive of the supporting cast. This remains one of the more entertaining films in this genre. It also made Hollywood sit up and take serious notice of Eastwood as a major force in the film industry."
The Outlaw Josey Wales - One of the genres finest!
K. Wyatt | St. Louis, MO United States | 03/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As stated above, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" is one of the genres finest films to ever grace the silver screen and the home theater! This Western masterpiece deserved a great DVD with as much on it as was possible to have and that goal was achieved! I wanted the DVD but also more or less had to replace the VHS copy I had due to the fact that this fine film is quite well worth repeated viewings and the good old VHS tape just didn't hold up! Off additional note with this DVD is the widescreen format. Obviously I've watched this classic many times, but with this DVD I was highly impressed seeing it for the first time in this format. It "almost" gives one the impression of seeing it for the first time.Not only is this film blessed with Clint Eastwood in the lead role, due to differences in opinion with the original director, it is directed by him as well. Clint Eastwood, who is inarguably one of the best in the genre, fills both roles flawlessly! Along for the ride and to counterbalance Clint Eastwood's role as the gruff gunslinger is Chief Dan George. His character brought comedic relief and a more realistic portrayal of a Native American, which wasn't done often in films produced at the time this one was. One thing is for certain when viewing a Clint Eastwood western, you the viewer are always in for a great ride!The premise:Clint Eastwood plays Josey Wales, a poor Missouri farmer who is trying to make a living and take care of his family while the Civil War rages on. Unfortunately for his character the war comes to his front door when Kansas irregulars known as the "Red Legs" brutally attack and kill his wife and child as he bears witness. Not long after burying his wife and child he meets up with other southerners who form a guerilla group. They immediately head off to start guerilla type attacks against northern troops. Of course the south loses the war and these groups are ordered to turn themselves in. Josey Wales chooses not to turn himself in and his fear of doing so bears out. What follows from this point is, as stated above, one of the finest westerns to ever grace the silver screen.Special Features:Of all of the special features available on this DVD there are a couple that are quite worthy of extra mention. The 1976 Documentary "Eastwood in Action" and the 1999 Documentary "Hell Hath No Fury: The Making of The Outlaw Josey Wales". Both are quite well done and highly informative.I highly recommend this film to all who are into this genre or those who are looking for something different and quite genuine! Most westerns aren't a western without Clint Eastwood! {ssintrepid}"