I’ve had Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo on my list for a little while now, but after doing some research on it and discovering the impetus behind the film I held off on seeing it until I got to High Noon first. John Wayne called High Noon “the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen”, and made Rio Bravo as a response to the film. Well, after seeing both films, I think I can make a fair assessment as to which film tops the other. Rio Bravo is well made, in many ways more conservatively than High Noon, but the latter is just a better put together product, and has more going for it than Rio Bravo does. Let’s explore why.
First off, the cast. The characters are rather unlikable as soon as they’re introduced; they act tough, mean tough, and won’t take no business from everybody – the problem being that every character is like this, so personalities clash so often we don’t ever get a chance to have the characters endear themselves to us. As for the storyline, there were several moments where I knew exactly what was going to happen right before it did happen, and this happened throughout the film, and irked me to no end; I’ve never personally experienced such a string of predictability in a film before. That, coupled with the surly, brash behavior from the principles, and there was just nothing about this film for me to like. So, judging the film from a technical standpoint, it is well made at the very least, but suffers from trying too hard to upstage the former film, and it shows too often. Not only that, it crams too much into its overly long running time, and the film very obviously shows that it is trying to juggle all these intermittent pieces of movie, trying too hard to keep them all together in order to be another ‘typical Western’, and for me, it didn’t put the pieces together well enough at all.
The big hold-up at the end of the film turned out to be somewhat of a let down as well; really, the whole film was one let down one after another. Even looking at the film from a technical eye, there’s not much to talk about, and even lesser to talk about positively. The one part of the film I did enjoy was Dean Martin’s performance as the recovering drunkard Dude; he showed a lot of moxie from both his character and from himself, and I liked the film whenever he was there. Even the random insertion of a song for him to sing partway through the film, he somehow made work, even though there was absolutely no reason it should have. Still, the film was an uncommon example of a film that turned out to be less than the sum of its parts, mostly because the parts were never really summed up together. If you’re stuck between watching this one and High Noon, I can definitely give you a hearty shove in the direction of the latter, and if you’re just in the mood for a good western, there’s plenty elsewhere that will satisfy you better.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10