Combustible Celluloid
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With: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, William Prince, Bill McKinney, Michael Cavanaugh, Carole Cook
Written by: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 111
Date: 12/21/1977

The Gauntlet (1977)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Run, Clint, Run

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Clint Eastwood's The Gauntlet has a setup similar to Coogan's Bluff (1968), but it really has more in common with Eastwood's own High Plains Drifter. It's an absurdly violent tale, but the violence eventually reaches an almost avant-garde, visual dimension.

Eastwood starts by squishing Dirty Harry with his heel. This cop, Ben Shockley, climbs out of his car and disturbs a loose liquor bottle, which goes clattering into the gutter. (He also says things like "I just do as I'm told.") Shockley is given a cruddy assignment: to escort a hooker Gus Mally (Sondra Locke) from Las Vegas to Phoenix so she can testify in some "nothing" trial. But it soon turns out that gamblers can bet against Shockley succeeding (the mob has placed the odds at 50-to-1 and constantly rising). Shockley also manages to get himself in trouble with the cops, so just about everyone is after them, including some bikers.

Locke -- who is thankfully less annoying than usual -- has to endure one more quasi-rape scene, but with a strange twist: she offers up her body as a way to save Shockley from a beating. The film is filled with interesting touches, such as the presence of signs that say things like "God Gives Eternal Life," as violence rings in the background. But the real high point of the movie is its extreme bullet count. The cops fire enough lead into a house to make it collapse, and Eastwood's reinforced bus must roll through a firestorm so thick it almost becomes like a baptism. Pat Hingle plays Shockley's former partner, now "promoted" to a desk job.

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