Film: Rio Bravo (1959)
Critics review: www.rogeregbert.com
With even the briefest of google searches it is very soon clear that my review of Rio Bravo is among tens to hundreds of gleaming reviews of the feature. With a 8.1/10 rating on IMDB, a 4.7/5 on amazon and a 100% approval rating on rotten tomatoes this feature is, at least in today very well received. When this movie was originally released no one thought much of it however, as points out Howard Hawks, the Director of this movie, had recently suffered a terrible dip in his career after the film he released prior to this, 'Land of the Pharaohs' had flopped dramatically and after his 3 year break no one thought anything good was left in the then 62 year old, and so no one really bothered with it at the time; this has lead to many critics today calling it a masterpiece and they might be right but it might be some sort of twisted compensation for its unspectacular reception when it was first released.
I cannot say I agree with them however.
What Rio Bravo proved quite definitely to me is how much the classic western is aimed at men and boys, this is a topic we as a class have already discussed in depth in the first week of the semester when reading Tompkins' article 'The west of everything'. I found this evident from the sheer amount of violence exhibited in the film, in fact with in just the first five minutes there's one stand off, one dead and two incapacitated through being hit with either fists or the wrong end of a rifle and all with (at a guess) less than 100 words said. While I'm sure this appeals to some the violence with very little context at the beginning of the film (and then more as the movie progresses) seems rather pointless other than showing which men roughly dominate which other ones although this is susceptible to change. Maybe, if you're really perceptive, it will indicate good guys and bad guys in the film but with everyone shooting everyone else and everyone wearing similar things and pulling their guns all at once this is easy to miss.
An astonishing lack of female representation is indicative of this too, in the whole film I noted 2 women, including extras within which I saw no women. of the two female characters one of them had very little screen time and the other's main position seemed to be love interest to the main character whom did nothing in attempt to get this lady, simply a woman who's young enough to be his daughter just simply started falling all over him while he stood and plainly talked about his job, because that happens all the time in real life doesn't it?
I understand entirely the fact that westerns (as with any film) are traditionally romanticized versions of reality and the question I just posed can be applied to most films from any era I don't believe this makes it any less of a valid point that in this case shows how the feature is aimed at men since it was a young beautiful woman after a old ragged sheriff of a town she was briefly staying in but then made her permanent residence because of this man who had showed no real interest in her until after she'd got a job there. this is an uncommon view among the professional critics where most think the opposite Egbert says in his article 'It has surprisingly warm romantic chemistry between [John] Wayne and Angie Dickinson'. He also states 'It is uncommonly absorbing, and the 141-minute running time flows past like running water' which I personally have to disagree with, at multiple times I felt like the movie was drawing to a close and then it simply didn't, instead it ran for another 40 minutes or so. This might be because westerns simply aren't for me in this way but if it were as uncommonly absorbing I feel I should have been more invested in the characters than I was.
First released in 1959, Rio Bravo is nearly, if not the most recent of the films I could have chosen for this task and I will admit it shows in the acting and the general quality of the special effects, sound and continuity in comparison to some of the other westerns we have watched in class. It is almost certain that Rio Bravo has more to be explored and hopefully some of that is more positive than what I have said here, and perhaps with a more experience of western films Rio Bravo appears more like the shining beacon of western cinema that the professional critics paint it to be. While I'd like to spend my time catching up on all the western films made between the 1930's and 60's in order to provide an educated comparison, I haven't the time; what i can provide is an outsiders opinion on the film which, as you have seen, is generally poor.