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The Left Handed Gun (1958)

tomatometer

No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 3
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 0

audience

58

liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 615

My Rating

Movie Info

The Left Handed Gun was adapted by Gore Vidal from his own TV play, The Death of Billy the Kid. 33-year-old Paul Newman stars as 21-year-old William Bonney, the hotheaded gunslinger known as Billy the Kid. Avoiding the usual Hollywood glamourization of this controversial character, Newman portays Bonney pretty much as he was: an illiterate, homicidal cretin. Treated with kindness for the first time in his life by rancher Tunstall (Colin Keith-Johnston), Bonney becomes devoted to the rancher; in

PG,

Western, Classics

Leslie Stevens, Gore Vidal

Nov 14, 2006

Warner Bros. Pictures

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All Critics (7) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (7) | Rotten (0) | DVD (3)

Penn's training in theater and live-TV drama (e.g. Playhouse 90) shows; the central performance is rehearsed into an anxious stir, every line matched to an actorly decision, a blocking cue.

November 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The picture is a smart and exciting western paced by Paul Newman's intense portrayal.

June 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Penn's first film, it is in many ways a key stage in the development of the Western.

October 21, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Boasting a strong turn by Paul Newman as Billy the Kid, this disturbingly psychological, technically innovative deconstructive Western marks the impressive debut of Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde), signaling the beginning of the New American Cinema.

November 17, 2008 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

A close, inspired study of Ford and Nicholas Ray, and a decisive source of inspiration to Peckinpah, Malick, and Penn himself, who looked at it again and saw Bonnie and Clyde.

June 18, 2008 Full Review Source: CinePassion
CinePassion

A good but disturbing psychological western, well directed by Penn and acted in a strangely fascinating style by Newman.

June 18, 2008 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

The character has rarely been portrayed as well as he is by Newman.

October 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Audience Reviews for The Left Handed Gun

Billy the Kid seeks revenge for the killing of a cattle rancher who showed him kindness.
I've never found the Western genre that compelling. Sure, there are some Westerns that use the lawlessness of the place/era as a way to debate the formation of laws in some kind of modern Locke vs. Rousseau discussion, and there are others that are characters studies of a different sort. But overall, macho violence and loud action scenes usually dominate the genre, and I fail to connect to any of the characters.
Aside from Paul Newman's performance, The Left Handed Gun is everything I don't like about Westerns. It's predictable, and Billy the Kid holds no great aura for me - he's a snide, hot-headed, illiterate fuck-up, and though he comes to realize this by the end, I have trouble understanding why he holds so much pull for people in general and filmmakers specifically. Within the context of the film, I don't see any motivation for a woman to sleep with him (in the lamest seduction sequence ever - "With you. With you. With you.") or for Garrett to take him under his wing.
Overall, the film gets strong reviews from friends and reviewers alike, but there must be something I'm missing about this genre.
July 20, 2011
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

While this is one of the many inferior Billy the Kid stories, it still has Paul Newman as a bizarre and crazy version of the character. The movie mainly fails on the lack of scope and story, which is completely mind boggling to me. When it's a character like Billy the Kid, you have no excuse to tell a weak story. I'm assuming this also had a lower budget, so some things are excused. However, it should really only be seen for Paul Newman; nothing else
June 16, 2010
ythelastman89

Super Reviewer

Any fan of the Young Guns movies that our generation grew up with should check this out. Obviously the production value was not as good and Hollywood license runs rampant with Gore Vidal's classic non-fiction. This movie was erroniously titled at a time when most historians mistakenly assumed that Billy the Kid was left handed based on a reversed image.
June 14, 2011
burgerstar
Burger Star

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Billy the Kid - Einer muss dran glauben (DE)
  • Le gaucher (FR)
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