The Gauntlet

If you like preposterous, over-the-top action movies, Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet may just be for you. Eastwood knows how to direct action, perhaps maybe too well. While the movie is often entertaining, some of the action sequences are so unrealistic that it brings me out of the movie at points. Even though the movie doesn’t take the action too seriously, it can be jarring to watch. There are two such sequences that come to mind. The first sequence is when the characters of Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke are at a house. They are on the run from law enforcement, but it seems like the entire police force comes out to shoot the entire house down. The second sequence is perhaps the final twenty minutes of the film. Essentially, these two characters enter town in a bus with seems like the entire police force on the West Coast gunning them down. What makes everything crazy is that these characters are not even fighting back! While all of this was fun to watch, it was very hard to suspend my disbelief. That being said, the action scenes are well-staged and there is enough action to last a lifetime. As I said before, Clint Eastwood knows how to direct an action film.

In the desert city of Phoenix, Arizona, Clint Eastwood portrays an alcoholic detective named Ben Shockley. He is given the task by police commissioner Blakelock (William Prince) to escort a witness named Gus Malley (Sondra Locke) from Las Vegas for a trial. Shockley travels to Vegas to promptly discover Gus as a college-educated hooker. She warns him that the odds are against him of bringing her to trial because she is going to testify against a very powerful mobster. As they start to travel, the mafia starts to chase them down. When Shockley calls for police help, he realizes that he was betrayed by someone in the police force.

One thing that Eastwood does very well in his movies is his portrayal of female characters. He does not seem them as decorations, unlike many directors of the time period. Despite all the mayhem in the movie, there is enough time for characterization of her character. She is a prostitute, but she is intelligent, ferocious, and has a college degree. That is very uncommon for a movie hooker. Sondra Locke performs her role very, very well. No wonder why Eastwood used her in many of his early movies. As for Eastwood himself, he does his normal character portrayal. Grumpy, has his famous scowl, and good at the action. So with all the action and mayhem in the movie, the performances manage to be perhaps the most realistic thing of the movie.

So if you are a fan of action movies, The Gauntlet is a good movie. It seems like it was a fun movie for all those involved with making it. I may not like the action being too crazy and over-the-top, I can appreciate the characterization and the story Eastwood and writers Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack created. Eastwood does have a sense of humor, so he applies that to the action and the story to a somewhat successful degree. Look, Clint Eastwood has made far better movies. I wouldn’t call this a blip on the radar, but I think it’s more of his less interesting movies. It was a kind of entertaining though watching the entire police force shoot down the bus as they made their way back into Phoenix. I guess if you go over-the-top, you must embrace it. That is what Eastwood did.

My Grade: B-

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