Cord Ties Things Up

John Wayne in Rio Lobo (1970)

After the Civil War comes to an end ex Union officer Col. Cord McNally (John Wayne - Chisum) joins up with a couple of former Confederate enemies to ride down to Rio Lobo in search of a traitor who was passing information on to the South during the war. In Rio Lobo they discover that the town is in the grip of some outlaws headed up by the traitor and set about retaking the town for the locals.

I've heard quite a bit about "Rio Lobo" a lot of which is surprisingly scathing with many suggesting it was just a rehash of "Rio Bravo" and "El Dorado". Now there could be some weight to that argument if it wasn't for the fact the basic storyline had been used in numerous other westerns as well. So in truth the argument should be more than anything is that the basic storyline to "Rio Lobo" once you strip away all the dressing is far too familiar to too many other westerns and you expect more from a western which not only starred John Wayne but was also directed by Howard Hawks.

That in itself doesn't make "Rio Lobo" a terrible western as the basic storyline is just about enough for those who just want some John Wayne western action. But it has to be said that the actual script is also lacking with scenes which feel superfluous and dialogue which is uninspired. In truth so is the action which whilst at times has an air of the spectacular such as the opening scenes featuring a train heist also has an air of being utterly daft. It almost feels like director Howard Hawk's heart wasn't in the movie during production.

But the criticisms of "Rio Lobo" keep on coming unfortunately and even John Wayne doesn't escape unscathed this time. Now in fairness John Wayne is the best thing about the movie as he plays McNally with that air of cantankerousness which he embodied many of characters with during the latter part of his career but frankly Wayne was too old for his character. Unfortunately he is also let down by a supporting cast who to me lacked direction, yes Jack Elam delivers the goods when his character finally appears but before that it almost feels like the supporting cast have just been told to look busy, say their lines and don't what ever fluff them. In truth I have watched enough westerns to have seen this before but again it adds to that sinking feeling that this western was wrong from the start. Sadly by 1970 many of the co-stars who John Wayne worked with over the years had passed away and it is that lack of familiar faces such as Ward Bond and Harry Carey which doesn't help matters as they were as important to a John Wayne western as he was.

What this all boils down to is that "Rio Lobo" compared to westerns in general is simply middle of the road, entertaining to a point but not great. But when watched because it stars John Wayne it is a let down as you expect more from a John Wayne western.

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