Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet

I love scrappy little cop flicks like Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet, a short, trashy exercise in exploitation that’s not only a departure from the heady, cerebral detective flicks he does but also miles off of the focused, gritty machismo of the Dirty Harry films. This is a low rent B movie and is proud of it, which is a rare commodity in Eastwood land. Boasting a terminally silly plot, lovably incapable protagonist and more bullets fired than all three Matrix movies stacked together, it’s a great way to spend a Saturday night when you have a hankering for old school action. Eastwood is Ben Shockley here, a disheveled mess of a Phoenix cop, heavily on the sauce and in no mood for the mission his uptight commissioner (William Prince, needing a moustache to twirl in his portrait of unapologetic evil) dispatches him on. He’s to escort a troublesome hooker (Sondra Locke) from Vegas back to Arizona where she will testify at a high profile mob trial. Of course every bent cop and his mother is on their trail, they can’t trust anyone in law enforcement and they’re on their own, forced to run a gauntlet of gunfire and corruption to bring her in. There’s three very odd, very hilarious set pieces that involve gunmen just fucking unloading clip after clip after clip in a way that the you might see on the Looney Toons, until the house they’re firing at *literally* falls apart. That’s the sort of slapdash style the film has, but it works in its dense specificity. Eastwood and Locke have chemistry, and it’s always cool to see the chicks in his action films have their own personality and impact on plot, not just part of the scenery or eye candy. Prince is so nefarious as the Commissioner that one wonders how a man like that ascended the ranks to that position, but in a film where’s he’s allowed to shut down a city block and order the *entire* Phoenix police force to empty boxes of bullets into an oncoming bus that Eastwood rolls up in, it isn’t that much of a stretch to believe. It’s just that kind of film, and I dug it a lot. Oh and look at that epic one sheet of a poster, whoever designed that should get a few medals. Great flick.

-Nate Hill

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