Oh, John Wayne. How I love your movies.
I think it’s kind of unfair for me to review John Wayne movies; after all, I have a set stable of John Wayne movies that I remember watching growing up that remain favorites for me, like The Sands of Iwo Jima, The Sons of Katie Elder and The Quiet Man. That doesn’t mean I like every John Wayne movie, because The Green Berets holds a special place of loathing in my heart, where I could probably write a lengthy piece on why I dislike it when Hollywood actors do “political project” movies.
That being said…Rio Bravo is pretty darn good. Wayne is the town sheriff who manages to arrest a murderer. Said murderer’s brother is the local powerhouse rancher, who will stop at nothing to bust his brother out of jail, including surrounding the town and attempting to force John Wayne to give up the brother. Wayne has only the town misfits to help him; a drunk, a cripple, a strange woman and a young kid to keep the rancher’s men out of town.
I really liked Rio Bravo, but it wouldn’t be rocketing up my favorites list any time soon. I appreciate it and like it, but there’s other Wayne movies I hold nearer and dearer to my heart. John Wayne doesn’t really need to be discussed, because Wayne played…well, John Wayne in almost every film he was in. Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson do stand-up jobs as the drunk and the kid, respectively and turn in admirable performances. More than anything, Rio Bravo’s a nice little Western with some eccentricities that make it stand out a bit more. There’s only two close-ups in the entire film and the first four to five minutes have absolutely no dialogue whatsoever. For me, Rio Bravo is a good movie, but it’s missing something to me that I can’t quite put my finger on. That, and the fact that Angie Dickinson is supposed to be 50-ish John Wayne’s love interest ooks me out more than a little.
That being said, I can never figure out why this movie is Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movie of all time. I dig it, but if we’re going for classic John Wayne, I’d much prefer The Sands of Iwo Jima, although I think Rio Bravo is probably one of the best westerns Wayne ever did.