Starring: Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke
Director: Clint Eastwood
Running Time: 135 mins
The Outlaw Josey Wales is an American film about a man who joins a Confederate guerrilla troop in the aftermath of the American Civil War, and finds himself a fugitive from Union forces.
A sprawling western complete with classic tropes of the genre, The Outlaw Josey Wales is an impressive spectacle throughout. Yet while its patient pacing lends the film a striking atmosphere, it also makes for an exhausting watch, with a story that never delivers spectacle on the same level.
Now, with western stalwart Clint Eastwood both starring and directing, you might call this film the very epitome of the genre. It’s not a Spaghetti Western, and it’s certainly a lot grittier than some of Eastwood’s most famous roles, but it’s absolutely a film with the vibe of a great western.
From the use of violence to its visuals and the down-and-dirty settings, The Outlaw Josey Wales brings more gravitas and intensity to the genre, delving in deeper to the more pressing issues of the age of the Wild West, rather than simple, pure adventure.
Now, there is an adventure element to the film, as we follow Josey Wales and his troop traversing the USA as he evades capture from Union forces. Yet that’s not where the film’s real intrigue comes from, and if you’re looking for a pure adventure, then the film might prove frustrating.
However, in the context of the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War, the film strikes up an engrossing insight into the society of the era.
From the still-raw wounds of Union and Confederate divisions to the persistent disorder in society across the country, The Outlaw Josey Wales looks at this classic genre in a way that we don’t often see on screen.
And that’s where the film proves most interesting. Yet it doesn’t quite hit home on that sprawling level, failing to deliver a rousing, epic adventure to go with its grand atmosphere.
In comparison to the likes of Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, The Outlaw Josey Wales isn’t quite as memorable or exciting a prospect. Its gritty vibes and slower pacing are a part of that, but it’s also the fact that it doesn’t have that same cinematic spectacle.
Clint Eastwood gives a strong lead performance, yet he doesn’t quite exude the charisma of a leading outlaw, often proving a surprisingly underwhelming central presence.
Of course, much like his classic Man With No Name performances, Eastwood’s more reticent presence is striking, but given that this film doesn’t have the show-stopping spectacle of many of his turns in Spaghetti Westerns, his performance doesn’t stand out quite as strongly.
As a result, he’s not the most magnetic lead over the course of the film’s two and a bit hours, and that’s part of what makes The Outlaw Josey Wales exhuasting – the fact that you just don’t connect as strongly with the lead through the whole story.
So, overall, I found The Outlaw Josey Wales a little bit of a mixed bag. While it impresses with a sprawling presentation of the western genre, as well as delivering intrigue with its social insight of post-Civil War America, it’s far from the exhilarating, engrossing adventure that it aims to be, proving an often underwhelming and exhausting watch. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 6.9.