Hombre!As I sat lazily in my office, browsing through my DVD collection for inspiration for a review, I found a movie that I have not thought of in years. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this offbeat Western, where less is MORE, especially when you have talents like the great Paul Newman and the always craggy and gruff Richard Boone.Hombre is, of course, lesser known than Cool Hand Luke or the other H movies starring Newman, Hud, The Hustler and Harper. Newman was not only gorgeous (check out Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), but was one of the greatest actors ever and he doesn’t miss a stride in this magnificent, but little known Western Classic.
Hombre is an end of an era western with a subtle political message about discrimination. This movie is before the time of political correctness, and is one of the first Westerns to take a stark look at Native Americans in a role other than wagon-burning savages. The supporting actors and actresses play their roles splendidly, portraying human weakness, fear, greed, hubris, inexperience, and frailty, complementing Paul Newman as the stoic, low keyed, brooding but intensely powerful Hombre. This was a low budget movie and the script is a little weak at times, but the power of Newman and Richard Boone overwhelmed any weaknesses to make this one of my favorite westerns ever.
From the opening scene in the bar, where John Russell disciplines a range bum who was disrespecting two Indians, the tempo of Russell’s screen presence was set. This classic western was all about the hard-nosed and the wimps and provides a stark contrast in the individuals who “can cut it” and those who show their inexperience and lack of backbone. Johnny Russell shows mettle like a combat hardened veteran as he calmly hops up on the top of the stagecoach and methodically blows away the same loose-lipped cowboy he owned in the bar scene as well as the sheriff gone bad. He immediately assumes the unwanted role as leader of the stranded group of passengers. It is now time for a battle of nerves and stamina and it is about survival, loyalty and morality.
Richard Boone is completely gripping as the always tough and foul-mouthed Grimes, a bad man with a knack for intimidating ALMOST everyone in a dark, hostile and sinister manner. He is so tough that even when crossing a desolate desert, he takes only whiskey, no water. Grimes just has a bad attitude from hell and he shows it right off the bat in the stagecoach station. He terrorizes and bullies everyone with a cold and calculated ferocity that is so believable that it invokes anger every time I see it. He delivered every line with arrogant disdain for the recipient and not only does he look scary and act scary, but he does it with such infuriating precision.
Three distinctly different women characters are portrayed, the naive, the seasoned and the sanctimonious, but there is hard hitting action and drama rather than sappy love diversion. John Russell and the never wedded, bedded, loved & let down Jessie entertain a good-natured, succinct battle of the sexes, but there is no love here, only genuine respect, especially at the conclusion of this drama. Situational ethics are discussed between the two and Jessie thought she had John Russell figured out, but she was in for a crushing surprise. Martin Balsam (12 Angry Men) played the always accommodating and generally spineless Mendez, a veteran of decades of discrimination, and was always pragmatic to the point of self disrespect, but these were not easy times for those who were not of pure, white-bread origins.
The final shootout scene was a masterpiece, invoking tremendous courage and character along with irony and frustration. The frustration was that the most courageous character and all of the bad guys died in a blaze of bullets while the others survived, in spite of their human frailty. The obstruction of the line of site by the rescued Audra Favor was an especially ironic twist; but Russell was still able to dispatch Grimes and the Bandit, but at the cost of his own life. Grimes line “Now what do you suppose Hell is gonna look like?” was brilliant and chilling, extending the continuity of the dark personality of this disturbing character.
I just cannot recommend this movie enough if you can find a copy. Paul Newman has made very few bad movies, as you might expect, and this one is no exception; it is one of my favorites.Hombre came out the same year as the blockbuster Cool Hand Luke, so the obscurity of this one is understandable, but it is every bit as watchable.
This movie was definitely not 80s action, but the one-liners were plentiful and magnificent!
ONE LINERS and QUOTES:
Audra Favor: “Have you ever eaten a dog Mr. Russell” John Russell: “Eaten one, lived like one.”
John Russell: Because I can cut it, lady.
Dr. Favor: You’ve learned something about white people, they stick together.
John Russell: They better.
Jessie: Well, what do you figure yours is going to read [referring to his grave headstone]
John Russell: Shot dead, probably
Jessie: Don’t people take to you, Mr. Russell?
John Russell:It only takes one who doesn’t.
Grimes: Mister, you have got a lot of hard bark on you comin’ down here like this.Now, you put two holes in me and I owe you.
John Russell: Two’s usually enough for most.
Grimes: Did you bring the money?
John Russell: Guess I brought my dirty laundry by mistake.
Grimes: Now what do you suppose Hell is gonna look like.
John Russell: We all gotta’ die, it’s only a matter of when.
Jessie: [As Grimes crawls away after being shot] Cicero Grimes, meet John Russell.
Mexican Bandit(dying): “I would like to at least know his name” Mendez: “John Russell”
***AND here we have one of the best one-liners ever uttered***
John Russell: Hey. I got a question. How are you planning to get back down that hill?
[Russell shoots the hell out of Grimes all the way down the hill as Grimes tumbles head over heels among the rocks….]
Special Ruthless Ratings:
- The number of times you smiled when fondly remembering Richard Boone’s role as Paladin in the TV show of Have Gun Will Travel : 6
- The number of times you groaned when you realize how old you have to be to remember that show: 27
- The number of times you would have turned over your ticket to Cicero Grimes: Every time
- The number of times you wondered what Mescal tasted like: 1
- The number of times you really wanted to find out: 0
- The number of times you applauded Dr. Favors “No god” speech: 1000
- Why didn’t Billy Lee just shoot the Mexican?: Man, I dont know..
- Was there a redemption/happy ending?: NOPE
- Is Paul Newman one of the best actors to ever grace the screen?: You bet!