24 July 2003 | frankfob
Competently made but ruined by brainless script and poor performances
Lambert Hillyer was a western specialist who directed everyone from William S. Hart to Buck Jones; although not in the same league as Ford, Peckinpah, Anthony Mann and other western icons, Hillyer could usually be counted upon to add some distinctive touches to his films that would often overcome the restrictions of limited budgets, lame scripts and sub-par performances. Unfortunately, though this film does have some interesting visuals, they're not enough to overcome the hack plot and the absolutely atrocious performance of Rod LaRocque, a former silent matinée idol. LaRocque plays Montero, a "dashing" Mexican bandit who, along with his sidekick--a hulking deaf mute named Colosso--rides into town intent on robbing the local bank. He's distracted from his task by the plight of a beautiful local girl who's in love with a poor farmer but is pursued by the evil owner of the bank Montero has come to rob. A lame premise, to be sure, and one more suited to an overheated silent-era melodrama, but whatever possibilities it may have had are ruined by LaRocque's appalling performance. His idea of "dashing" is to paste a permanent smirk on his face that brings to mind the worst excesses of Tom Cruise; as if that isn't annoying enough, LaRocque came up with what is undoubtedly the worst Mexican "accent" in the history of film. He doesn't even TRY to come close to an authentic one; every so often he'll say "weel" instead of "will" and "mew-zeek"--which is actually a French pronunciation, not Spanish!--instead of "music" in his own flat, nasal Midwestern accent. At first it's simply distracting, but combined with that irritating smirk and the insipid dialog, it soon becomes annoying, then maddening. Hillyer's imagination is evident at the beginning of the film, in a nice, moody shot of a posse emerging from a foggy river crossing, but it's all downhill from there. Not much action, several miscast roles (Walter Long, usually great as a tough prison inmate or big-city gangster, is wildly out of place as the head of the posse), and supporting performances almost as bad as LaRocque's doom this picture to instant forgettability.