Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) is this tight-lipped rancher guy who gets out of jail after being drunk and disorderly. A smooth talking land owner named Harlan (Robert Duvall) pays Joe’s fine because he wants him to track a Mexican revolutionary named Chama (John Saxon) who claims that Harlan’s land actually belongs to the “Meh-hican pee-pole”. At first, Joe agrees to track down Chama because he stole some of his horses, but eventually he sides with Chama and tries to make sure he gets his day in court. This pisses Harlan off and he tries to gun down Joe and Chama on the way to the courthouse. Joe doesn’t like that very much so he drives a train through a saloon and guns down Harlan’s posse.
Despite a sturdy cast, the presence of a capable director (John Sturges who also helmed The Great Escape), and legendary author Elmore Leonard writing the script, Joe Kidd is still a flat, boring, and forgettable western. Even though the flick runs a mere 88 minutes, it still seemed longer than The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The problem is that not much happens in the movie. Most of the middle section is taken up with Eastwood and Duvall mulling around and waiting to capture Saxon. Although the flick threatens to come to life during the rousing climax where Clint drives the train off the tracks, the excitement is short lived. It’s too little too late.
The usually reliable Eastwood seems to be phoning it in on this one and he fails to make Joe Kidd a memorable character. He gets a good scene early in the movie where he throws stew in another prisoner’s face, but by the time he gets out of jail, he pretty much becomes a non-entity in the film. If the movie belongs to anybody, it’s John Saxon. He gives a side-splitting performance as Chama, the Mexican revolutionary. His accent is fucking hilarious and his hysterical histrionics will leave you in stitches. Duvall is also good as the villain. I especially liked the way he never even bothered to pronounce Chama’s name right. (It’s pronounced “Cha-ma”, but he always says “Chay-ma”.)
The best thing about the flick is the stunning cinematography. As mentioned in my Rogue review, I have a new DVD player that up-converts DVDs to Hi-Def quality and the player enhanced the scenic plains and gorgeous desert vistas in the movie beautifully. You know you’re in trouble when the landscape holds your attention more than the plot.