Starring: Kirk Douglas, Bruce Dern
Director: Kirk Douglas
Mood: If you’re having a week from hell and feel like everyone sucks including yourself and you don’t want to be cheered up or entertained at all but still need something to watch.
This sounds like a cliché, but after 2020 I just expect disappointment. I expect things to fully suck, and then to somehow get even worse.
Maybe there’s something to that Law of Attraction thing, because Posse was a disappointment wrapped in failure and sprinkled with the way my dog smells after eating horse manure.
Okay, Posse is probably not an actual horse turd of a movie. It might have some redeeming qualities that you could see if you didn’t have my unrealistic expectations blinding you. I was SO CERTAIN that it would be amazing.
- I f*cking love Kirk Douglas Westerns
- Kirk Douglas is a great horseman
- Kirk Douglas is a phenomenal lead
- Kirk Douglas is a super-silverfox with that moustache
- In case it’s not obvious, I bet everything on Kirk Douglas
But Posse is not Kirk Douglas at his best, or anything else at its best either. It’s not even a “B”. I’d give it a C-, and only because it did feature Kirk Douglas on horseback sporting a fine moustache.
Posse’s entire first scene takes place in the dark, with no dialogue. I had to rewatch it three times to figure out what was going on. There’s a barn full of sleeping dudes, one of them betrays the group to some other guys, and suddenly the barn is on fire and everyone is getting shot or burning to death.
Train robber Jack Strawhorn (Bruce Dern) was the main target of the attack, but he’s escaped unharmed. U.S. Marshal Howard Nightingale (Kirk Douglas) and his posse need to capture or kill him to boost Nightingale’s chances of becoming a senator.
Part of the movie is the chase, and a larger part is Strawhorn’s imprisonment. Neither is interesting. Both are full of terrible, half-assed acting by literally everyone except Douglas.
Bruce Dern is SO F*CKING BAD as Strawhorn. A stronger actor in the opponent role could have bumped this movie up a few notches. It wouldn’t have saved it, but it sure would have made for more pleasant f*cking viewing.
I don’t know what it is; maybe it’s his nasally voice, or the fact that he put zero effort into creating any kind of character here. There’s virtually no difference between how he played his character in The Cowboys and Strawhorn.
While Dern was on screen, I was so bored that I started Googling things. I learned that jean jackets were invented in 1880 by Levi Strauss. That fact is more invigorating than his entire performance.
Kirk Douglas was a great actor. Even in a flop like this, he’s doing a good job. There’s a fully realized character in Nightingale. But since Nightingale isn’t thoroughly bad or good, you don’t get any of Douglas’ range until his final scene in which he truly leaves everything in the dust. But in the rest of the movie there’s nowhere for him to go.
No one else in Posse made enough of an impression for me to pass judgment, other than stating the fact that they made zero impression.
Here are the rest of my scathing opinions:
- The movie itself barely feels like a Western. It’s so boring. It takes a lot to be that dull when a story includes two ambushes and a hijacked train on fire and full of explosives.
- I always find the costumes, hair, and makeup in Westerns of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s to be exceptionally lazy. They don’t even try to make people look old timey. Most of the young men in Nightingale’s posse and the young ladies in town look like my mom’s friends in high school.
- Not only is the story boring, but there isn’t a single likeable character in the movie, so you have no reason to keep watching. None.
Posse TRIES to embody many of the characteristics of a Revisionist Western, but I think it fails hard.
The point of the story seems to be that politicians are just as bad as train robbers, and everybody has dirty secrets.
They’re trying to get you to feel Strawhorn doesn’t deserve to be in jail, like he’s some kind of Billy the Kid or Jesse James outlaw hero and Nightingale is the crook. Watergate had just happened, so the general opinion on American politicos was sour.
But like I said, the story and acting didn’t sell Strawhorn, or the posse, or anyone at all. It was just a bunch of semi-shitty people, doing semi-shitty stuff.
Then, the ending made no sense to me. Strawhorn did rob trains, and the people did want him caught. Nightingale did try. How is it wrong for him to go after a legit bad guy before an election? He didn’t pick on some innocent victim.
And the posse did bad stuff to the townsfolk, who then got mad at Nightingale – even though the posse guys didn’t seem even slightly upset to be doing all that robbing and shooting.
Anyway. Posse reached for some kind of clever political commentary and I think it failed miserably. It was also condemned by the American Humane Society for Paramount’s disgusting ongoing use at that time of tripwires on horses.
Don’t waste your time with this movie. Go watch one of Douglas’ brilliant Western hits, like Last Train from Gun Hill, The War Wagon, or The Villain.
If you made it this far, please enjoy this selection of my actual notes while watching Posse: