Kidd-ing about with an Eastwood Western
If you looks at Clint Eastwood's impressive list of westerns "Joe Kidd" would end up down in the bottom half. Not because it's a terrible movie as "Joe Kidd" features a solid storyline, solid action, solid performances from a solid cast and solid cinematography. But because it's all very ordinary, there is nothing which stands out, nothing which is special or makes it overly memorable. "Joe Kidd" is just a very standard western from the 70s which is on a par with so many standard westerns.
When a groups of Mexicans, lead by revolutionary Luis Chama (John Saxon - Enter the Dragon), are denied their claims to ownership of their land, they are forced to take action and arms in their dispute. Merciless landowner Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall - Open Country) takes matters into his own hands and puts together a group of killers to go after Chama and talks ex bounty hunter Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood - A Fistful of Dollars) to help them get their man. But when Joe realises that Frank and his hired men are cold blooded murderers his loyalties begin to shift.
"Joe Kidd" actually starts reasonably well, the introduction to Joe in jail is sort of humorous especially when he smashes another prisoner in the face with pan. But after that "Joe Kidd" all becomes quite ordinary as we discover that Mexicans lead by the revolutionary Luis Chama are trying to protect their rights to the land from an unscrupulous land owner. It twists about a bit as Joe realises that land owner Frank Harlan and his band of men are cold blooded murderers but it never becomes complex as it works it's way through a series of cliche story elements. Not that it's bad for doing so, the storyline whilst obvious and simple works well enough. And despite the outcome being easy to predict as to who Joe eventually sides with and kills there is just enough going on to keep you watching.
Like the storyline, the action is also quite ordinary with nothing really standing out to create a memorable moment. Not even the scene which sees Joe been fired at with a long distance rifle is really that brilliant. But again it works and with many of the action sequences capitalizing on the wonderful locations and mountain vistas they work well enough.
And to match everything else the characters and performances are solid but average. Clint Eastwood is as charming as ever as the gruff Joe Kidd who doesn't really give a hoot about anyone else. It's a sort of amusing performance as the storyline occasionally lends itself to a bit of humour, such as when Joe smacks the other prisoner with a pan. But yet again it's not overly memorable it's just solid with Clint Eastwood almost going through the motions of playing a variation on his touch cowboy persona.
Elsewhere it's just the same with Robert Duvall coming across as sort of nasty as murderous land owner Frank Harlan but it's not a stand out performance, not one which is overly memorable. And the same can be said of John Saxon who plays the Mexican revolutionary Luis Chama, with an accent which occasionally ends up over the top and unintentionally comical.
What is more surprising than anything is that "Joe Kidd" was directed by John Sturges who gave us such great movies as "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" and "The Magnificent Seven", yet none of the Sturges flare really shows. It's as if Sturges like Eastwood was going through the motions and whilst his eye for a great shot which captures a brilliant backdrop is spot on, his grip on making "Joe Kidd" exciting isn't.
What this all boils down to is that "Joe Kidd" is in reality just another western. It's not terrible rather just average with everything about it solid but never spectacular. It has some moments especially when it comes to the subtle humour but it's one of those movies which is entertaining but easily forgotten.