The Left Handed Gun (1958)
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as William 'Billy the Kid' Bonney
as Pat Garrett
as Charlie Boudre
as Tom Folliard
as Joe Grant
as Mrs. Garrett
as Mrs. Hill
Critic Reviews for The Left Handed Gun
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.
The picture is a smart and exciting western paced by Paul Newman's intense portrayal.
Penn's first film, it is in many ways a key stage in the development of the Western.
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.
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.
A good but disturbing psychological western, well directed by Penn and acted in a strangely fascinating style by Newman.
Audience Reviews for The Left Handed Gun
Awful, awful screenplay. It fails to grip from the start and only worsens from there. I don't think I've ever seen such an enormous jumble of pointless scenes strewn together for a 50's western in my life.
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.
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.
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