John Wayne plays Cole Thornton, a gun for hire claiming a job with a land-grabbing cattle baron (Ed Asner). Cole accepts the job until he finds out that his old pal J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum, in one of his finest late career performances) is the town sheriff. Cole switches sides but not before being shot by a put-upon rancher's daughter, Joey (Michele Carey), who thinks Cole is still working for Jason. With the bullet lodged near his spine, Cole rejects a risky operation and leaves town looking for work. A year later, Cole returns to town with a young, firebrand partner, Mississippi (James Caan), in tow to find that Jason has hired a legendary gang of gunslingers to force Joey's family off their ranch. Cole also discovers J.P. has deteriorated into a pathetic joke of a drunk after being thrown over by a dame (and Mitchum is not short of harrowing in his efforts to fight back his demons). But Jason's hired guns won't quit, so Cole along with Mississippi and J.P.'s obnoxious deputy Bull (Arthur Hunnicutt) try to head off the gang of hired guns. At the same time, Cole helps J.P. to pull out of his drunken stupor and regain his professionalism.
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Long before Hollywood suits thought it was a good idea to hide Freddie Prinze Jr.'s hottitude under a pair of spectacles (see Boys and Girls, if you dare), it was decided that for a change of pace, Cary Grant should be similarly four-eyed and socially reticent. And so he was cast in Bringing Up Baby as Dr. David Huxley, a nebbish scientist about to marry his icy prig of a colleague and who's been roped into wooing a rich potential donor to their museum. It's not that Grant can't play this guy, he pulls off the role just fine, but the whole enterprise seems reminiscent of covering a fine antique in layers of shellac or casting George Clooney as an antisocial computer hacker with poor fashion sense. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should.
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Filled with beautiful black and white photography, especially for its era, Red River is an atmospheric ride a la Unforgiven, where it's hard to find a white-hat hero and a sense of dread surrounds the proceedings. Unfortunately, the film is hampered by a lame hoedown score, typical of 1940s Westerns, not to mention an atrocious "happy" ending that belies the emotion in the rest of the picture.
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Wayne plays Sean Mercer, the grizzled veteran behind a group tasked with collecting exotic animals ordered by various zoos. Along the way, he must contend with various minor crises - a female photographer wants to tag along, ostriches get loose, a baby elephant needs to be cared for.
Continue reading: Hatari! Review