Clint Eastwood as Bronco Billy

The Fastest and Nicest Gun in the West

I like "Bronco Billy", well it is a Clint Eastwood movie so what is there not to like, but although I like it I have to say it's also a little heavy handed. What do I mean, well it's as if Clint Eastwood is doing Frank Capra doing a western and the outcome is a movie which is laden with sentiment and a positive, wholesome message all of which is less than subtle in its delivery. Don't get me wrong, it's a good message but at times I don't know whether the forcing, almost preaching of the message was done intentionally or not.

Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood - Escape from Alcatraz) loves what he does, he travels around with a group of friends putting on Wild West shows and even if they are struggling to make money the positive influence and pleasure they give is reward enough. Whilst stopping off at a small town Billy spots Antoinette (Sondra Locke - The Gauntlet) a stuck up attractive woman who has been left stranded by her husband. Billy instantly likes her and in need of an assistant offers her a job in his show. Although rich Antoinette doesn't let on and whilst she initially doesn't enjoy being with Billy and his show she slowly warms to them both, but her presence also seems to be bringing the Wild West Show a string of bad luck.

Sondra Locke as Antoinette Lily in Bronco Billy

So the actual storyline to "Bronco Billy" isn't really that great we have this bunch of almost misfits, ex criminals and deserters touring around putting on a wild west show and barely making any money. But their reward is more than money because they make people happy especially children, orphans and the various places that they perform for free. At the same time we have the second story of Antoinette Lily, a rich woman who is left stranded by her money grabbing husband and finds herself joining this band of performers, learning that there is more to life than money along the way. It's not a great storyline by any means of the imagination and not to be cruel it almost floats along never seeming to go anywhere, except for the obvious romance which forms between Billy and Antoinette.

But then "Bronco Billy" seems to be a movie less bothered about dazzling with some great, original storyline than a movie which has a message to get across. Through Billy's almost fatherly role to all those he takes in and become part of his troop you get a message that everyone deserves a second chance. But at the same time you get a message that you only get one life so you should try to live it in the way you like. Now I can't disagree with either of those sentiments, but the handling of them is less than subtle almost bordering on the preachy especially as the story winds its way to the big finale.

And that same sense of preaching affects other sentiments which are prevalent throughout "Bronco Billy". Every time Billy comes across a group of kids, young cowboys as he likes to refer to them, he has some words of wisdom. The trouble is that with words of wisdom such as eat your food, pray before you go to bed and basically be good it's not that thought provoking. But even though the whole sentiment side of things comes over as being almost forced, Eastwood's heart is in the right place delivering a wholesome message which has sadly been lost in movies over the last few decades.

It's actually quite amusing as Clint Eastwood as well as directing also stars as Bronco Billy, because he is playing a role more akin to the old traditional cowboys, such as Gene Autry yet you could say that it was Eastwood's westerns in particular those with Sergio Leone which would bring an end to these traditional cowboys. But you have to say that Eastwood plays Billy with great skill creating a multi-layered character that is tough and mean but also with a heart of gold when it comes to decent people.

Aside from Eastwood, Sandra Locke who was Eastwood's partner at the time, puts in a really nice performance as the rich and bitchy Antoinette. And as you would expect the chemistry between them is particularly good especially as they pussy foot around being mean to each other before allowing their true feelings to show. Whilst many of the rest of the cast put in adequate performances in comparison to Eastwood and Locke you have to mention Scatman Crothers who fills up the screen with his smile and bellowing voice as well as his ability for delivering great lines of comedy.

What this all boils down to is that I do like "Bronco Billy", it's a movie which will put you in a good mood but from a technical point of view the heavy handed sentimentality feels a little too preachy at times. It's not the best Clint Eastwood movie, but it's one of those really nice one's from the 80s where he didn't take himself too seriously, allowing himself to be the butt of a few jokes.