High Plains Drifter is a daring and quite different film with Eastwood not playing a hero type and an unpredictable story that doesn’t spoonfeed an explanation to the audience at the end.
Plot: A drifter with no name (Clint Eastwood) wanders into a small town, where his gun-slinging abilities are in high demand. When the drifter rides into Lago, he is met with incredulity and disapproval by the townspeople. But once he shows his skills with a pistol, the locals realize he may be able to help them fend off a band of criminals who have been terrorizing the town. He agrees to help the townspeople, but does so with his own secret agenda.
Review: High Plains Drifter is quite different from your average Western but as it’s from director and star Clint Eastwood then it shouldn’t come as a surprise as he’s a man who rarely conforms to expectations.
It’s a dark tale and his character known only as The Stranger is difficult to root for; in the first 15 minutes he has already killed 3 men and raped a woman in the toughest scene of the movie. It’s quite jarring and you aren’t sure what to think about this man.
After he has killed the three men the locals ask if he will stick around and save them from three convicts who are being released after the town got them to commit a rather heinous crime. Seen in flashback scenes the crime is the brutal murder by whipping of a town Marshall.
I won’t go into the reasons for his murder to avoid spoiling anything but by the time the movie ends you’re wondering if The Stranger is the Devil, an Archangel or even a demon. It’s never really explained who he is but you can put two and two together to work it out as he’s essentially an angel of vengeance.
This town has a dark secret and The Stranger seems to take pleasure in humiliating the locals while he “prepares” them for meeting these three men when they return.
It’s not exactly feelgood fare like I said and darker than you’d maybe expect but It’s not without a sense of humour and Eastwood expertly directs it, keeping it well paced and relatively short at an hour and 45 minutes long.
The music is a little dated now but for the most part helps to create this nightmarish vision of the Old West and builds the atmosphere nicely.
Eastwood is as cool as always but The Stranger is far from a hero which is what makes this picture so fascinating.
There is plenty of violence and a few shoot-outs to keep things moving along and I consider this a bit of a gem.
It’s also nice to see Geoffrey Lewis play a villain and he was pretty damn good at it too; he and his gang are vicious savages so you don’t feel a bit bad for what they go through.
Overall, High Plains Drifter is a daring and quite different film with Eastwood not playing a hero type and an unpredictable story that doesn’t spoonfeed an explanation to the audience at the end.