my critique of the film
This is what I posted. Take your shots:
Don't be mislead by my many criticisms, this is a fine, enjoyable, unusual Western. I highly recommend it.
The main theme is that an embittered, flawed, Southern Civil War veteran (Scott) reeks misguided revenge on the man who "stole" his wife, and in the process accomplishes nothing meaningful for himself but spurs the community to redeem itself and take back control from unsavory forces.
What I liked about the film:
¶ good dialog and direction.
¶ good familiar supporting cast. More time is spent with the supporting cast than with Scott, and they are more interesting and complex characters than Scott. I particularly liked Valerie French. She made a clever and unexpected ploy at the end, which tied up everything very nicely.
¶ one cute scene deserves particular mention -- when Scott and the town barber argue over whether the barber has time to shave Scott, instead of Scott forcing the barber to attend to him, Scott wisely asks that he be permitted to shave himself. Too bad for Scott that his other actions weren't so reasonable.
My two serious criticisms are:
¶ it was a really bone-headed and dangerous ploy of Scott to announce, the way he did, publicly in church that he was going to kill Carroll by sundown, just as stupid and unnecessary as his forcing the stagecoach drivers to stop and let him off instead of politely asking them to stop, something they would readily do if asked. Ending up pinned down at the stable showed how stupid it was. There had to be a better way to handle the situation -- like paying to have someone read a message at the marriage ceremony.
¶ the bad guys seemed pretty tame and nice (and few, I might add) after the buildup that Carroll "got the town in his fist and he's squeezing it hard." The whole point of the movie was for the town to take itself back from the evil elements, but Carroll seemed like the nicest character in the movie; it was never mentioned what he was doing wrong. The sheriff also seemed pleasant for the most part. Certainly no monstrous evil was shown.
I'll end with this small point. The direction was good, but I think they should have handled the Beery back-shooting better. When I first saw the movie, not paying close attention, I thought Beery might have been diving for his gun, provoking/justifying the bad guy to shoot him. Actually, he was just casually picking it up upon leaving. I think it should have been directed better. The gun could have been in the middle of the street, and Berry could have been just leaving the eating-place so the gun would not have been a factor at all.
I guess the writers/producers were aware of all of this. Probably they had to have it both ways -- they needed some unnamed evil for the town to redeem itself from, and they also needed to make Carroll and French likable to earn our sympathy (from Scott's misplaced hate/revenge) and let them leave town in peace and dignity.