I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Return of Josey Wales

tn_returnofjosey“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.

mp_returnofjoseyWe 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.

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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.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 at 11:03 am and is filed under Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Responses to “The Return of Josey Wales”

  1. I used to see this on the shelf of a local video store all the time and I never got the courage to rent it. It didn’t look promising and based on Vern’s review, I guess I was right. But HIGH NOON II didn’t look great either(despite being a Lee Majors fan) but when I finally caught on television, it turned out pretty good. But anyway, I just recently found both Josey Wales novels and in lieu of watching the sequel, I’ll just read it.

  2. Reformed white supremacists with Indian blood has ta be one of the coolest types of people in the world. I remember seeing one cat on television, some true crime/prison doc, who was a high-ranking member of the Aryan Nation. The programme that evening in particular was about men who turned they backs on the Aryan Nation while in prison and naturally all the headaches that can cause. Splitting headaches. So this First Nations gentleman, he 86d and wound up he had to live more alone than solitary. For safety’s sake. Its especially bad-ass these guys cos theyre essentially race traitors who’d be done in, no doubt, on a reservation if they came across themselves and didnt pass as white and all that. There is a lot of internalized shame in some of our First Nation peoples’ hearts for a lot of things I guess but its wrought by us white folk. So what makes the guy on this TV doc so cool or the author of that book so cool is the implied redemptive arc that we dont get to see in a one line biography but we know that something happened which shook them to their core. Its one thing when a Euroethnic white person quits associating with organized hate groups, like, it is cool and obviously you had to do some digging but most white people I know go their whole lives without a militant racist doctrine and you really set down at one point and just agreed with something that said we’re the best? You just bought into some acutely violent rhetoric. These Native fellas, they had to understand they were cutting down a part of themselves in signing that pact. And they one day fought, that they could have it back.

  3. Shit mane, nevermind. Forrest Carter was a loser and a liar. White as white can be and the name he took on, Forrest, was that of some notable Klu Klux Klown. His name was Asa Carter and he was a real fuckface, thru-n-thru. Im sorry I maybe misread Vern’s introduction here and maybe you go into it on the original JOSEY WALES or whatever. Anyway, Carter may of never been Cherokee but he always was a loudmouth racist. Seriously, he took on a new name and moved away to a low profile only after losing numerous elections and shooting some of his cronies dead over the bookkeeping.

    Maybe his novels are great and Clint might of done a bang up job on his JOSEY WALES picture but the man hisself was scum and yellow to the bone.

  4. Bless you and your obscure reviews. I love Michael Parks but don’t know about him filling Clint’s shoes.

  5. Rorolovo – yeah, I went into that in the other review. Sorry, I meant “Klansman turned acclaimed Native American author” as a joke in this case, didn’t mean to be misleading. But I like your analysis anyway.

  6. Man if you told me that Michael Parks directed and starred in a Western, let alone a Josey Wales movie, I woulda jumped all over it.

    But then in the same breath you tell me it sucks? That’s just building me up to break me back down. So cruel.

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