Years ago Clint Eastwood didn’t have the revered status he has now. He was mainly seen as just a movie star. Sure he directed some films, but he was most known as simply being a popular star, like Burt Reynolds. He was churning out Dirty Harry films, a few westerns and starring in films alongside his main squeeze Sandra Locke and funny orangutans.
The Gauntlet was one of the films he directed and starred in with Locke. It’s a straight-forward story – Clint plays a cop from Phoenix who has to escort a prisoner from Vegas back for a trial.
Of course it’s not as simple as hopping back on a plane. The mob and police force are willing to do anything to get rid of this prisoner. Now Clint can’t trust anyone and is avoiding deadly obstacles all the while having this hooker with an attitude nag him to death.
It’s certainly not a great film, but it is entertaining for what it is. Clint as always is great fun to watch and is a much more vulnerable character than his Dirty Harry persona. Locke is also very good. I have never been a fan of hers, but here she is pretty good.
Two characters grating on each other throughout a wild road trip is something we’ve seen done plenty of times and while here it’s not the best example of that kind of film, it is still enjoyable. In fact I was surprised how much time the film gave to the two characters simply bickering, trying to one up each other and eventually finally talking.
As for the action, it’s pretty standard but nicely handled. Eastwood does a lot of shaky, handheld camerawork that today might feel overdone, but for a 1977 film feels pretty fresh and adds some additional excitement to some of the sequences.
There really isn’t much mystery to solve, you’ll probably figure out the entire story in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, it takes our main characters much longer to and they continue to make stupid decisions the whole time while the story ventures into real improbable territory .
The climax at the end has a nice buildup, but unfortunately it all feels like a rushed ending and doesn’t feel very satisfying. It’s pretty awkward and just jumps to a resolution.
Despite all that, I still I think it’s one of Eastwood’s more underrated earlier films and it was an entertaining, old fashioned, Saturday night action flick….just as long as you’re not expecting any more than that.
By the way, the film has a terrific poster! It’s glorious! Oh, how I miss movie posters like that.