Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, William Prince, Bill McKinney
Released: 1977 / Genre: Action-Adventure / Country: USA / IMDB
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If I was to give any credit to Clint Eastwood’s action-thriller The Gauntlet it would be for its poster. One of those cartoon-like depictions of a very un-cartoon-like film. Designed by the late artist Frank Fazetta, the poster depicts heroic alpha male Clint Eastwood protecting pretty blonde prostitute Sondra Locke from a haze of bullets. Fazetta’s artistry is amongst my favourite film artwork along with famed poster designer Drew Struzan.
But other than the poster there isn’t a lot to recommend about Eastwood’s 1977 film. He’s not yet the accomplished director of Unforgiven, or later Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, and he’s lumbered with Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack’s imbecilic script that beggars belief with every gun shot – and there’s A LOT of gun shots!
Admittedly, it’s a fun movie – fast-paced, humorous here and there; Sondra Locke is fittingly vivacious, Clint Eastwood is assuredly macho. But it all feels like a collection of ideas without a ‘whole’ to bring it all together. And it’s decidedly stupid.
For starters, the first half of the film has Locke hiding facts from Eastwood even though there is absolutely no reason to. Even more stoopidly Eastwood keeps ringing his boss to tell him his exact whereabouts even though he knows he’s being set-up. And, for some reason, even though everyone else knows it, Eastwood can’t work out it’s his boss that’s stabbing him in the back until someone explains it to him. Could this be Eastwood’s dumbest character ever?
When the two main characters are on the run, Eastwood hands Locke his gun. She looks at it for a second. She looks at the handle, the gun barrel, the hole at the end where bullets come out and says: “What’s that?” Yes, she really asks Clint Eastwood, while staring at the gun he’s handing to her: “What’s that?” With no hint of irony, Eastwood explains: “It’s a gun.” He is explaining this to a woman who later calls him a “.45 calibre fruit”, a telling remark that alludes to the fact she not only has knowledge of what a gun is, but also recognises the different types of ammunition they use. Hey there screenwriters Butler and Shryack – you’ve got a plot hole…and it’s not the only one!
Within seconds of this moment with the gun, a car trailing the pair shoots at them, cracking the rear window. Guess what Locke says? You got it! “What’s that,” she asks, like she’s just exited the womb. A bullet has just left a BULLET HOLE in the rear window. She is holding a gun. She knows they are being pursued by very bad guys – she posed naked for one of them for goodness sake! Yet, she can’t comprehend a gun shot in anger. Blimey!
Can it get worse?
…of course it can!
Eastwood and Locke run the gauntlet in a bus they have attached steel plates to in order to protect them from bullets. The steel is cocooned around the driver’s seat where they are situated. I wondered why they hadn’t also covered the tyres since these would be easy prey for a wily cop. Then I realised why they hadn’t bothered. It’s because the stupid cops in this stupid movie don’t shoot at tyres to stop a vehicle. They shoot every other part of a bus, apart from the tyres. They also shoot the middle and back of the bus where they can plainly see no one resides.
What’s even worse is how the cops are situated at either side of the road, presumably to offer an impenetrable defensive line. It doesn’t work but yet what is more disturbing is how these ‘intelligent’ officers of the law will fire bullets into a bus without a thought about the bullets either missing or shooting straight through the bus and hitting their fellow police officers on the other side. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
…and that’s not going into the whole helicopter-sniper-motorbike escape fiasco. How our intrepid protagonists survive this little encounter is beyond me. There’s a moment when Eastwood goes off-road to escape the helicopter when doing so will undoubtedly slow the bike down on uneven and unpredictable desert land. But never mind – it’s only a movie (with no concept of plot logic).
The film is literally littered with improbable plot points, a complete lack of logic, and holes the size of the Grand Canyon. But I can’t say I disliked it. If trashy B-movies won Oscars, this would be a Best Film contender. With scenes like the silly but suitably overplayed stealing of the chopper from the wild hogs and Locke’s brilliantly sadistic retort to being hounded by a cop about being a prostitute, the film has enough moments of simple delight to merit a viewing…or even two.
Review by Daniel Stephens