HOMBRE—-a persistently downbeat but effective 1967 western, directed by Martin Ritt. Apart from a few vivid moments of action, in the main it proceeds at a measured pace, studying several characters in their interaction on a stagecoach ride through some broiling desert landscapes.
Ultra-stoic ‘John Russell’ (Paul Newman) is a white raised by Apaches, with a deep-rooted mistrust of everyone. He’s saddled with earthy Diane Cilento, unscrupulous Indian agent Fredric March and his snooty wife Barbara Rush, calm Martin Balsam and brutish Richard Boone. Outlaws interrupt the trip and moments of truth break a sweat as the individual strengths and weaknesses of the motley group cook under the blistering Arizona heat.
“Liberal” western has an intelligent screenplay (Irving Ravetch & Harriet Frank Jr adapting Elmore Leonard’s novel), with Ritt directing Newman for the sixth time. Though premised as ‘adult’, and therefore more realistic than typical entries in the genre, it still does what acres of oaters were guilty of, playing geographic havoc with likelihood in having various levels and types of terrain crossed too quickly to consign with reality.
No matter, the cast excels, with frank and sensual Cilento, blithely corrupt March and peacemaker Balsam standing out. Boone etches another portrait of harshness in his gallery of villains. Tight-lipped Newman lays down the sort of laconic trail soon to be mined by Charles Bronson. Well reviewed, it made $12,000,000, hitting 19th for the year, but it still came up short due to a budget that hit $5,860,000. The star’s lucky run of ‘H’ movies—The Hustler, Hud and Harper—called it a day here.
Memorable for Paul smashing a glass of whiskey across the insulting sneer of David Canary, the jarring finale, and for bandito Frank Silvera’s laid back pronunciation of “hombre”. 111 minutes, with Peter Lazer, Margaret Blye, Cameron Mitchell, Larry Ward, Val Avery and Skip Ward.