Gun Hawk Down
Usually I would call a western like "The Gun Hawk" a cliche western because here we have the classic western storyline of a well known outlaw trying to live his life peacefully but having to deal day in day out with the danger his notoriety brings. And to be honest there is plenty which is cliche about it from characters to drama but then considering this is nothing more than a b-movie it plays out in an entertaining manner reaching a nice dramatic climax. And one thing lifts "The Gun Hawk", makes it better than it really is and that is Rory Calhoun who delivers a performance superior to the movie and makes some corny scenes surprisingly touching.
Following a life of gun fighting Blaine Madden (Rory Calhoun - Apache Territory) knows that he will never be allowed to rest, there will always be someone wanting to prove himself and whilst he is firendly with Sheriff Ben Corey (Rod Cameron - Gunfight at Black Horse Canyon knows that Corey will arrest him if he ever gives him cause to. It is why Blaine chooses to live in an isolated town called Sanctuary full of all the lowlifes on the run from the law and where a code of conduct means they are safe from each other. But after the latest gun incident leaved Blaine with a bullet wound it maybe something else which will bring the end to his days.
In a way the best way to describe "The Gun Hawk" is to refer to a later John Wayne movie because the basis is similar to "The Shootist". As such we have Blaine the legendary quick draw whose notoriety precedes him and makes everyone cautious of him but then we have the aspect that after being shot the wound becomes infected and he faces dying a slow painful death. It's a reasonable if not original storyline and as we watch Blaine take young Reb under his wing it plays out in quite a predictable manner with a few surprises as they reach Sanctuary but not many. And of course being a typical b-western there is a bit of romance in it when we see the attractive Marleen played by Ruta Lee.
The trouble really is not so much the storyline because whilst it could have done with some fleshing out is still good but it is the unoriginal action. There is nothing stunning in "The Gun Hawk", the action is over quickly and typical with a couple of brawls and shootings all shot in a very unoriginal manner. It is simply what it is, just another western made quickly because audiences still loved westerns in 1963.
The one thing which makes "The Gun Hawk" more interesting is Rory Calhoun whose performance as Blaine is superior to the movie. In the first half as the notorious outlaw who knows he can never take his gun off you really get that aspect of tiredness of a life of choices which means he can never rest but also the desire to have a quiet life. And then in the second half as he faces a slow painful death it is quite touching as he wants to die the way he lived rather than a slow painful one in bed. It is a good thing that Calhoun excels because whilst there is also Rod Cameron, Ruta Lee, Rod Lauren and Morgan Woodward they only deliver the routine sort of performance you would expect in a b-movie western.
What this all boils down to is that "The Gun Hawk" is nothing more than a routine b-western taking an often used storyline and doing little to make it feel fresh. But it is still entertaining and much of that is down to one man Rory Calhoun whose performance is superior to the actual movie.