The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) Poster

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9/10
Among The Best Westerns Of The 1970s
virek21317 January 2007
Even when matched up against his Oscar-winning 1992 film UNFORGIVEN, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES must rank as being among Clint Eastwood's finest turns both in front of and behind the camera. Having displayed a solid feel for the director's chair with 1971's PLAY MISTY FOR ME and 1973's HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, Eastwood took the reins on JOSEY WALES when he and the original director Philip Kaufman, who still shared a co-write of the script (and had directed 1972's THE GREAT NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA RAID), ran into some pretty strong disagreements. The end result was one of the best westerns of the 1970s, in critical, commercial, and artistic terms.

Eastwood's character is a farmer living out a quiet life in Missouri near the end of the Civil War who is forced to see his whole family and homestead wiped out by marauding "Redlegs" from Kansas. He joins up with a guerrilla band of Southerners to "set things aright." But when the Union betrays those same guerrillas into surrendering and then promptly slaughters all of them, Eastwood takes violent revenge. He soon finds himself of the run at the reluctant hands of his former commander (John Vernon), and a determined Union man named Terrill (Bill McKinney, who played one of the sadistic mountain men in DELIVERANCE). As he heads towards Texas, he encounters a motley group of outcasts (Chief Dan George; Sondra Locke; Paula Trueman), and becomes less obsessed by violent revenge and more interested in helping, going for his guns only when McKinney's Union troop closes in, and bounty hunters come looking for him.

In contrast to the "Man With No Name" persona he codified with Sergio Leone in the 1960s, or the tough cop he personified in DIRTY HARRY, Eastwood's Josey Wales is a man of great courage and sympathy who becomes tired of all the violence he has had to see and to take part in. The vengeance motif is largely played out by the time the film is into its second half, and it only comes back towards the tail end for a brief moment. Those who have tagged Eastwood as a political reactionary, a John Wayne of our time, have certainly misjudged him, as even one viewing of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES will testify to. He is not interested in being tough for the sake of being tough; he just wants to survive, and he wants those he protects to be able to live in peace. That's why, although the film is unavoidably violent at times, it has a considerable humanity too, and why it remains one of Eastwood's finest films even to this day.
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8/10
A personal tour de force for Eastwood!
Nazi_Fighter_David25 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Eastwood's film had all the necessary elements to make a classic... There are in his movie a lot of thoughts about war and the victims of war... The film has the magical combination of historical fact and cowboy fantasy...

The fantasy, as ever, is Eastwood... Josey Wales switches from a simple peasant farmer to stone-cold killer... His shooting becomes as precise as his tobacco spitting... Whether he is merely taking a split second to reverse the two guns he is pretending to hand over to some bounty hunters and concede some bullets instead, or whether he is decently shooting countless 'Blue Coats' with a captured machine gun, or appearing out of the sun to terrify a band of Indians into thinking he is an 'army of one,' or pulling the triggers of his empty guns over and over again, he remains superhuman and invincible... It is Eastwood's screen presence as something unique, direct and strong, the essential Eastwood persona that is a powerful attraction to the public and an enigma to the critics...

Josey Wales has no desire to become an outlaw... At the beginning of the film he is a peaceable Missouri farmer whose wife and child are murdered by Unionist vigilantes, the 'Kansas Red Legs.' The film opens in 1858 when the semi-discipline of the Civil War has been reduced to the chaos of marauding private armies... Wales joins a bunch of desperate Confederate fighters led by Commander Fletcher (John Vernon), and for the next seven years intensifies a multiple revenge on the Unionists, killing them without political cause or pity...

At the end of formal hostilities a price is placed on his head so he makes a picaresque journey into the Indian nation... On the way he picks up different companions: Jamie (Sam Bottoms), a young soldier he saves and who repays the favor only to die from his wounds; Lone Watie (Chief Dan George) who instructs him in the ways and thoughts of the Cherokees; Little Moonlight (Geraldine Keams), the Navajo girl who suffers injustice from the white man's civilization; Grandma Sarah (Paula Trueman), the old woman who knows how to shoot marauders, and Laura Lee (Sondra Locke), whom he rescues from a rape...

After surviving the dangers of their journey under the protective wing of Josey, the group settles on a farm formerly owned by Sarah's son who has died in the war... Wales tries to pass his self-sufficient qualities onto them so that they can if necessary survive without him... He shows them how to use guns and protect the farm against invaders, and negotiates a peace with the blue-painted Navajo Chief, Ten Bears (Will Sampson).

Eastwood plays a solitary figure who is not simply an avenger, or a fugitive with a gun... He is a man who at the same time defends women and children and the weak... His love affair with Laura is triggered off by such wistful sentiments as 'clouds are dreams floating across the sky of your mind,' but it rings true that a man blinkered by revenge and hardened by the sheer need to survive could be drawn to an innocent girl, able to escape from the terrors of her environment into the poetry of her reveries... This was the first of six films that Eastwood would make with Sondra Locke who has already won an Oscar nomination in her film debut 'The Heat Is a Lonely Hunter.'

Chief Dan George, who received an Oscar nomination, for playing Old Lodge Skins in Arthur Penn's 'Little Big Man,' is terrific as the aging Indian warrior Lone Watie... He calls himself a civilized Indian - "We're civilized because white men can sneak up on us.' He struck up a perfect partnership with Eastwood, sensitively timing the soft humor in their relationship... When Josey casually outdraws and kills four men, the Old Indian asks with genuine interest, 'How did you know which one to kill first?'
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9/10
One of the finest westerns
Daniel R. Baker21 March 2003
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is a wonderful story about a wounded man, Josey Wales, a Missourian who has lost his home and his family to the Civil War. As the Civil War ends in defeat and despair for the South, Wales alone of his guerrilla unit refuses to surrender. He has nothing left to live for, except to fight, and he cannot give that up.

This is a setup that has appeared many times in the movies, as the hero with nothing left to lose is a perfect excuse to show nonstop gunplay. To some extent, this happens in THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES too. It is an action western according to the classic formula, but it is more than that. Josey Wales heals his wounds as the story goes on, and begins to replace the friendship, and then the love, that he has lost. And as he heals, he begins to grow out of violence as a way of life. Many westerns have the theme of the older breed of man who tamed the west by violence being abandoned by his fellows; only this one, so far as I know, has the older breed of man abandon himself, that is to say, change his ways with the changing of the times.

Clint Eastwood is a decent actor, not a great one. But at times he has shown the skills of a really first-class director, and given his limitations as an actor it is the more to his credit that he did not hog the stage. He gives plenty of screen time to an excellent supporting cast, of whom the most memorable is Chief Dan George as aged Cherokee warrior Lone Watie, a role he plays with an eerily perfect balance of dignity and humor. Will Sampson makes an unforgettable cameo as Comanche chief Ten Bears, and Paula Trueman is a magnificently feisty Sarah.

John Vernon plays Fletcher, the man who betrays Josey Wales early on. I don't understand why Vernon could not find work in quality movies after this (he has appeared in 38 cinema releases since this movie and I challenge you to name any of them). Vernon has one of THE great basso-profundo voices in American cinema; only James Earl Jones could compare to it. If mountains could speak, they would sound like John Vernon. His role is a neat twist on the trope of the 'reluctant hero'; Fletcher is a reluctant villain.

The ending of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is the most beautiful and poetic of any in western movie history, maybe the most beautiful of any movie ever. According to the rules of the genre, the final confrontation between Wales and Fletcher can have only one outcome; the movie finds another way, because Josey Wales has found another way.

Rating: ***½ out of ****.

Recommendation: Western fans should own this one, but any movie fan should enjoy it.
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10/10
Love, Hate, Revenge, Forgiveness, Sorrow, Life, Death.
MrJinx4 November 2002
Love, hate, revenge, forgiveness, sorrow, life, death, emargination, racism, the uselessness of war, betrayal, redemption, solidarity, friendship. Not many films manage to deal competently with even just one of these topics. This masterpiece deals with all. Within the first 4 or 5 minutes (even before the opening credits) one has already been exposed to more force and emotion than most films can pack up in 90 minutes.

By the end of the 2 hrs 10 minutes of this film one would have lived through tour-de-force highlighted by memorable climaxes and showdowns featuring some of the most striking dialogue in cinematic history... "dying ain't no way to make a living". Eastwood's character doesn't speak much but utters a handful of memorable lines.

The central character played by Eastwood is given fine support by an excellent ensemble cast including Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Bill McKinney and most of all John Vernon. John Vernon plays a character called Fletcher who turns out to be one of the most complex characters I have ever come across. His motivations and true intentions are never quite clear. He comes across as a bit of a Judas figure and yet he still retains his humanity as the script and Eastwood as the director never truly judge Fletcher, leaving the viewer to judge for him or herself. Almost every character is memorable and every performance fits in place.

The action is sudden and explosive and not always expected. The film takes many twists and turns, yet every twist is a natural consequence of the situations and characters in the film. Ultimately one is left with a truly rich cinematic experience which should appeal to more than just fans of the Western genre. Its themes of suffering and the consequences of evil acts is still sadly relevant in today's world - a world in which not all wars are won by the good guys and in which the good are sometimes persecuted by those who win these wars.

When thinking of the best pre-credit sequences ever forget most others... this should be your best bet.
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10/10
One Of My Favorite Westerns
ccthemovieman-18 June 2006
Clint Eastwood has directed, played in or starred in a lot of westerns. We all have our favorites and this my favorite Eastwood western, along with the more set-in-modern-day western, "Bronco Billy." (The latter is really a drama more than a western.)

This is simply an extremely entertaining story with two lead characters - played by Eastwood and Chief Dan George - who were fascinating to watch. Also, as in most westerns, I enjoyed the good photography and was surprised, considering the year of release, that the language was pretty tame.

George has always been a favorite Native American actor for many people. He gets choice roles playing likable guys, and "Lone Watie" character here is no exception. Eastwood, as " Josey Wales," reverts successfully back to his "Man with no name" persona: you know, the strong silent and somewhat mean type. He's a lot like the characters John Wayne played late in his career. He best portrays this with scenes like the one in which he spits tobacco on his dog!

In addition, there are some solid actors in minor roles, people like John Vernon, Sondra Locke and Bill McKinney, Will Sampson, Sheb Wooley and Sam Bottoms, among others. I was surprised Locke, Eastwood's girlfriend or wife at the time, didn't have a bigger role. With her youthful looks and great big eyes, she looked prettier than I've ever seen her, although she never was a glamor girl or got many good parts.

At 136 minutes, this is a bit long but it never drags. This is one of the very few movies I ever watched twice within two weeks and enjoyed it immensely both times....and each time since.
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10/10
One of Clints very best!!!!!!!
jrlowe7117 June 2005
Having grown up with Josie Wales as a household name and being a big fan of westerns, I have to agree with the just about everyones previous comments in describing it as excellent. It represents what a true western is. The story line is captivating and intense. The lead character played by Clint himself could be played by no one else. What some may call "lack of acting" because of lack of dialog only lends itself to the desirability of this film. You find yourself hanging on his next words. Clints one liners are still household expressions nearly thirty years after the movies release. In short this film is one of the best westerns made period. There have been others that Clint has made including the spaghetti westerns and his Oscar winning Unforgiven that add to his credibility as a great actor and film maker. But not many films touch so many levels of emotion. The only letdown to this film is that it had to end and no sequel was followed by Clint. Lastly, it's too bad for the film industry and Eastwood fans like myself that the man has to get old. His take on what entertains an audience is uncompromising. Films like The outlaw Josie Wales and what it represents to the American Culture will be enjoyed for many years to come.
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9/10
"Are You Gonna Pull Those Pistols or Whistle Dixie?"
bsmith55521 March 2005
"The Outlaw Josie Wales" was made by Clint Eastwood at a time when westerns were out of favor and the public wanted more of Clint as Dirty Harry. This film as it turned out, was one of Clint's best and certainly ranks up there with the more popular "Unforgiven" (1992).

Josie Wales (Eastwood) is a dirt farmer in Missouri during the American Civil War. One day a group of yankee raiders led by Captain "Red Legs" Terrill (Bill McKinny) attacks and burns his farm and murders his wife and young son while leaving Josie for dead. As Josie ponders what to do next a group of southern raiders led by "Bloody Bill" Anderson (John Russell) takes him into his gang to seek his revenge.

After the South surrenders, a fellow southerner, Fletcher (John Vernon) offers the remaining members of Anderson's gang amnesty if they will swear allegiance to the North. All but Wales agree. Unbeknownst to Fletcher, the men are suddenly murdered by the Union soldiers led by Terrill and in spite of Josie's efforts, only he and a young soldier names Jamie (Sam Bottoms) escape. Terrill and Fletcher are sent to hunt down the fugitives.

Jamie soon dies from his wounds and Josie is left alone. He makes for Mexico but is joined first by Lone Watie (Chief Dan George), then Little Moonlight (Geraldine Kearns) whom Josie rescues from a trading post and finally Laura Lee (Sondra Locke) and Grandma Sarah (Paula Trueman) who he rescues from a gang of Commancheros.

The group makes for Texas where Grandma Sarah's son has left her a ranch. All the time Josie is being pursued by Terrill and assorted bounty hunters. Josie dispatches several of them with his brace of Colt 45 horse pistols.

Finally at the ranch, the group sets up a home and Josie begins to fall for Laura Lee. Fearing an Indian attack, Josie rides to meet with Chief Ten Bears (Will Sampson) and makes peace with him. But finally Terrill and his group of "Red Legs" tracks Josie down and..........

Eastwood who also directed the movie, plays Wales with his usual grim faced persons. He's not afraid to pull his pistols and dispose of anyone who stands in his way. Interestingly enough, Eastwood cast all of the principal Native roles with native actors and treated them as equals and not in the old Hollywood tradition.

An excellent western in every way.
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10/10
Eastwood's Best
Charles McGrew8 August 2004
Certainly Clint Eastwood's best complete movie, the story of a man drawn into hell by the inhumanity of others (specifically, the Redlegs and the Senator), who is redeemed by the humanity of others (the settlers, Lone Wattie and Ten Bears) to recover some semblance of a life after the Civil War. Eastwood's acting is economical (but a far cry from the man-with-no-name character he made famous), and carries the story very well, and his directing style is practically invisible (which is exactly what it should be -- if the director does his job, you should never even notice his contribution). The viewer is entirely caught up in the story of the man. All in all, a brilliant bit of film from Eastwood (who clearly learned everything he could from his own directors, and then combined that knowledge into superb craftsmanship of his own.)

It is interesting to contrast the Jose Wales and Billy Munny (from Unforgiven) characters. Wales seeks to regain his humanity through others; Munny - having regained his humanity from being a Wales-like character at the beginning of the movie - descends willingly into a hell of his own choosing.
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9/10
A brilliant western
klaramee-12 March 2006
Strikes all the right notes of humor, adventure, gun fights and most of all, authenticity. Eastwood is impressive in front of and behind the camera. The script stays reasonably close to the book (Gone to Texas).

Chief Dan George is truly a treasure and was perfectly cast. The great Will Samson is imposing and utterly believable as Ten Bears. Bill McKinney (from the "Eastwood acting collective") is great as Terrill. Although, Sandra Locke is typically forgettable in an otherwise well cast film.

This along with Unforgiven will forever be branded classic "Cowboy" movies in my mind. I still recall Orson Welles on the Tonight Show telling Johnny he had just seen "the greatest Western ever made" after viewing The Outlaw Josey Wales. Brilliant film.
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One of the Best Westerns (Short List, Too)
tostinati8 March 2003
The best thing I can say about this film is that it manages to be Epic --truly grand, covering broad territories interior and exterior, a lot of emotional, moral and physical ground-- without posturing or self-conscious bigness. You never get the feeling people are being herded onto a giant mark for a take. --Or that Eastwood the Director is scrambling for filler, biding his time until the timing is right for the next blow-out set piece. In a word, it really has none of the faults even of some of my long-time cherished 'favorite' epics (no names please). It is more focused and more genuinely evocative of mood than Nevada Smith, which its story may faintly call to mind; it seems less overtly "Hollywooden" than that film, too.

Westerns that stand in stature alongside Josey Wales: The Searchers, One Eyed Jacks, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Fort Apache, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Beyond that, I draw a blank. The Boetticher and Mann '50s westerns with James Stewart and Randolph Scott are probably the real spiritual predecessors of this film, although, stylistically, Eastwood has clearly studied his Ford and paid close attention to Leone. (Those who've seen Jimmy Stewart break down in tears of moral anguish in one of the aforementioned films-- or watched Randolph Scott use up all his ammo in a standoff on some matter of principal so imperative that he cannot move until the thing plays itself out, however that may be-- know exactly what I mean.)

Another thing I like: Whenever you get too comfy within the environment of this film --as you did, say, in the late John Wayne westerns, after he had become such a franchise-- along comes some major shock or disappointment or unbearably poignant bit to remind you that the model of this film is, after all, real life, where these kinds of thing happens all the time.

-----------------------

May I add a spoiler at this point? I said "A SPOILER??" What happens to Terrill, the chief red leg, at the end of this film is more in line with the fate I envisioned early in the going for Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. It is spectacular, painful to watch and more than a touch grisly. But it is not so overblown and RoboCopesque that you can't imagine such a pivotal moment actually happening that way. The ending of The Outlaw Josey Wales is, in a word, what the ending of Gangs would have been if the focus groups and script doctors and the Great Scorcese had gotten the thing right.

Ten stars.See it.
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