“He’s crazy. He’d charge Hell with a bucket of water.”
10 years after Clint took his acting/directing to new heights with THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, the less known character actor Michael Parks (DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH, KILL BILL, TUSK) took over the role for his one go behind the camera. He was, uh… less successful than Clint was.
When I was reading about Forrest Carter, the Klansman turned acclaimed Native American author who wrote the book that THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES was based on, alot of the bios mentioned that after the success of the movie he wrote a sequel called THE VENGEANCE TRIAL OF JOSEY WALES and tried to turn it into a screenplay. They did not mention that the screenplay had been turned into this.
At the start of the movie Josey is off somewhere living a life of peace thanks to everyone who conspired to pretend like he was dead at the end of Clint’s movie. But some of his friends from the saloon, Kelly and Ten Spot, are still around, and reminisce about him sometimes. If I didn’t look it up I’m not sure I’d know they were connected to the first movie, since they’re not the most memorable characters and they’re played by different people this time. But I’ll survive.
We don’t see Josey for a while, but he’s a bit of a local legend. There’s a kid who has idolized Josey since he gave him a hat one time. They say he talks just like Josey, and we see him spit tobacco on a beetle. We know where he got that idea. Surprisingly, the kid does not become Josey’s sidekick or adopted son or anything. He doesn’t even have to babysit him.
The trouble comes in the form of a Mexican general who comes through the saloon for drinks and atrocities. He kills (somebody?) and locks up Ten Spot. As (whoever it is) dies she tells her employee Paco to find Josey and tell him what happened. So Paco goes looking.
When we finally do see Josey he doesn’t have the iconic scar on his cheek, but he does have a similar beard. And he definitely keeps the spitting. He hits a scorpion and a rattlesnake.
Parks has a different take on Josey Wales than Clint did. His is more of a hick, and way more laid back. Parks does that thing where he talks real quiet and mumbly, allows long gaps between sentences, breathes through his teeth, looks like he’s thinking about something. His appeal is that he’s very much not a man driven to action, so it’s weird that he finds out what happened, kisses his new wife goodbye and heads off on the trail to vengeance. The long, scenic trail.
There’s a funny scene where he catches up with his prey and then just lazily lays around waiting for them to come out. He says he doesn’t want them to have to be out in the sun too long. That they should have a couple drinks first.
Unfortunately Parks’s direction is not nearly as good as his performance. The faded, cropped, poorly mixed VHS release does him no favors, I’m sure, but he’s just not able to get a filmatic groove going. The story has no momentum and the supporting cast is not impressive. At least there are a couple funny lines. Like the one about “It hurts more to get hanged in the morning.” Or the part about “Maybe the bullet just went through and hit nothin” and he says “It’d have to go through his head to hit nothin.” Paco kind of takes the place of Chief Dan George as the smartass sidekick.
But it’s sloppily shot and edited together, the gunfights are not involving, and the kinda abstract score doesn’t always seem to go with the images. A typically awkward scene happens at the end when he leaves the bad guy buried up to his neck and it cuts between goofy reaction shots and stock footage of a tarantula crawling and an eagle flying, never in the same shot as his head.
There are some more straightforward anti-war statements than in the first one, delivered by a different character but clearly meant to be sympathetic. This one also adds some sort of hippie-ish flute sounds on parts of the soundtrack, which in my opinion are an anti-war sound.
But I don’t know man. I wish I could tell you this was an ignored gem, but the gem part definitely would not be accurate. I can not compare this to any type of jewel, though I did already forget about it, so the “forgotten” part would be fair. Do you guys even remember what I was reviewing? Some Michael Parks western, I believe. Be sure to not care whether or not you check out this forgotten non-gem.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.