Movie Review: True Grit (1969)

Posted: April 8, 2012 in Drama
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Mattie Ross’ (Kim Darby) father Frank( John Pickard) was murdered by his employee Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) Mattie sets out to find the toughest sheriff in the area to find Tom Chaney and bring him back to justice, to be hanged.  She decides on Rooster Cogburn,(John Wayne) a murderous alcoholic who kills more suspects than he brings back alive.  Rooster has “True Grit” according to Mattie.  Mattie also meets a Texas Ranger named Le Boeuf (Glen Campbell) who also wants to bring Chaney back alive to hang him for the death of a Texas senator and his dog. Rooster and Le Boeuf don’t necessarily want Mattie to come along, but she fights her way onto the trip.

Mattie, Rooster, and Le Boeuf seek to track Tom Cheney.  They track down and kill part of Tom’s gang, and now are on the trail of Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) who will lead them to Chaney.  Just as they almost capture Ned, he takes Mattie hostage and leaves her with Tom Chaney, who has a gun.  Do Rooster and Le Boeuf save Mattie?  What happens to Tom?  Does he get away?  Or is he brought to justice.

This is a fairly straightforward Western, which also doubles as a revenge fantasy, much like The Searchers, also with John Wayne.  A fundamental plot point puzzled me however, why did Tom Chaney kill Frank Ross?  Ross was good enough to give Chaney a job, and for his trouble, he got shot. Is Chaney a psychopath?  It was never explained, a reason was never given.  Without that reason, the movie doesn’t make much sense.  Maybe I’m overanalyzing.  John Wayne fits the bill of the cranky drunken sheriff to a tee. The banter between he, Campbell, and Kim Darby was quite enjoyable, as the pint sized ball of fire that no one wanted to tangle with. Glen Campbell was quite good as Le Bouef.  He did a good job of conveying the character’s haughty self-image, especially considering Campbell is best known as a country singer.  I was confused by the Kim Darby character however, how old was she supposed to be in the film?  Was she supposed to be a love interest for Le Boeuf?  I couldn’t enjoy her role, because I kept thinking, how old is she?  Despite the fairly standard plot, this is a vehicle for Wayne, and he used it to win an Oscar, with his usual tough talking, take no prisoners swagger.  When I think of the word swagger nobody comes to mind quicker than John Wayne..

True Grit.  A truly gritty western.

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