Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Let’s throw down… ‘The Gauntlet’. I figured it was time that I watched this film again, for the third time in twenty five or so years, as it really highlights some changes in a persons thinking and the way they see life. I was around ten years old or so when ‘The Gauntlet’ came on NBC or something as their movie of the week, and as a ten year-old, with all due respect to ten year-olds who may be reading this, your brain is fairly empty. After watching that film, I was convinced, and there was no way you could tell me otherwise, that I’d just watched the best movie ever.

Some fifteen years later hanging out at the video store, I see a copy of ‘The Gauntlet’ sitting lonely on the shelf, and armed with my fond remembrance, I take it on home for a healthy dose of nostalgia. After that viewing I was convinced that ‘The Gauntlet’, is without a doubt, the stupidest movie ever made. I understood why as a ten year old I might have found it entertaining with the all the guns and car crashes and what not, but it was completely ludicrous, and stupid to the point that it was almost insulting.

The years have marched on unabated, and yesterday I watched ‘The Gauntlet’ again, probably for the last time I suppose until I turn fifty. This time though, I think I get  what Clint Eastwood was trying to do with the film. The problem with me watching the film at the age of twenty five is that I took everything, including myself, way to seriously. I was political, college educated working on a masters, the world was screwed up and me and like thinking individuals were going to work to change it. We’re young, smart, intense, critical thinking individuals who over analyze everything and ready to take you task. Whatever.

As I approach forty, fast, oh how things have changed. Being married, especially being married as long as I’ve been married teaches a man that no matter how sound and secure his argument may be, and we’re talking holding the smoking gun type of sound argument, you’re wrong. Early on this upsets you, causing you tell yell and shout, but as time goes by you learn that winning arguments is way less important than keeping the peace. Having a child has taught me that it is going to become what ever it is going to be. Children do things that forces you to question whether or not that brainthat is that alleged to be in their skull is serving any purpose other than basic bodily functions. I’ve tapped my sons dome on numerous occasions to see if I can hear a hollow echo. Nope. Something is in there, it just doesn’t seem to be turned on yet. Politics is total bullshit, you can’t change anything, and the degrees are virtually worthless. My brother in law was bemoaning his lack of college degree. Mind you, he’s a journeyman electrician and out earns me by nearly 3 to 1. I tell the man to relax because what my college degrees have done is allow me to be turned down for jobs that he can’t apply for. If you take life too seriously, you will go stark raving mad. Twist the cap off the Martel, pour yourself a drink, and chill.

In ‘The Gauntlet’ Clint Eastwood is Phoenix Arizona police officer Ben Shockley. You gotta love Ben because the movie opens with the man leaving the bar and heading straight to work to meet the new police chief. My man. The new chief wants Ben to fly to Vegas to extradite prostitute Gus Malley (Sandra Locke) who is a ‘nothing witness’ testifying in a ‘nothing trial’. Yeah right. Gus tells Ben that somebody wants her dead and he should save himself. Hell, they’ve even posted a line on it as ‘Malley no show’, and the odds are up to 100 to 1 that they aren’t going to make it. Big Ben ain’t quite the believer, at least that is until cars start to explode and big black sedans start flat blasting. Now Ben and Gus have to travel through the perilous desert, on foot, bike, train and bus in hopes of making it to Phoenix alive. Will they make it? What do you think?

Obviously nothing has changed about ‘The Gauntlet’ since it was released way back in 1977. Ben Shockley is stupid to a fault, but now I realize that it’s not narrative flaw, but by design. Seriously, when Ben tells commissioner Blakelock (the late William Prince) that somebody is trying to kill him and the prostitute and to send help, and the next thing that happens is a bunch of armed policemen come and fill the house with 10,000 bullets, then one should suppose that Blakelock is dirty right? Well not Ben Shockley. He proceeds to call Blakelock back to tell him somebody tipped them off, please send help again. Fortunately the prostitute, who tells us she has a college degree which makes her smart, quizzes Shockley that maybe the man is dirty? Now it took some real convincing, but she finally was able get it through his thick skull that there’s a rat in the stew.

And of course there is the ludicrous ending with the slow moving bus driving down Phoenix Main Street while every single police officer on the force fires 1,000,000 bullets into it. Surely the bus would have exploded long before it reached city hall, and maybe one of the five thousand police officers should have aimed for the tires? I know Gus and Ben were in that loose fitting steel enclosure inside the bus for protection, but imagine if just ONE of the one million bullets went inside that thing and was bouncing around what would have happened. Ludicrous, but by design. Of course we can’t forget the end where Blakelock, surrounded by 5,000 police officers shoots Shockley and then the whore grabs a gun, surrounded by the same 5,000 police officers and shoots the COMMISSIONER OF POLICE! TWICE! Brilliant.

By this time Eastwood had already clocked in with three Dirty Harry movies, and he was probably plenty sick of the dude so he created Ben Shockley, the Anti-Dirty Harry. Dirty Harry has nothing but scorn for authority, whereas Ben Shockley does whatever he is told no matter how stupid it is. Harry Callahan kills people. Ben Shockley killed no one in this movie. Dirty Harry kicks ass. Ben Shockley got beat up a couple of times and even managed to get kicked in the nuts. Callahan is whipflash smart, almost MacGyver style, but there are door jams brighter than Ben Shockley. Do not assume for even a brief minute that director Clint Eastwood didn’t know how ridiculously over the top this movie was. This IS the man who gave us ‘Unforgiven’ along with other numerous now classic films. But what the hell was up with his infatuation with Sondra Locke? I hate to bag on the woman, cause she’s probably a sweetie, and I know she got an Oscar Nomination for some movie I never heard of back in 1968, but still, she could possibly be the worst actress of all time. I mean she is really poor. I hate to say this but damn, her poo must be made of solid platinum. Damn Clint. I have often said that if it’s so good it makes me think stupid, then I don’t want it! Keep it away!

If I ever had the chance to talk to the old man, I wouldn’t ask him about ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ or ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ or ‘Dirty Harry’ or the hundreds of other great works this certified legend has delivered to us, I'd ask him about this movie and what he was trying to do. I’d also pull him to the side and ask him, just between us men, what’s the best poo he’s ever had. I’m almost certain he’s say Sondra Locke, and then he’d probably shed a tear. I’m almost certain.

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