19 February 2004 | TheFerryman
cowboys also have self-respect
This one differs from the other Scott-Boetticher westerns as the action is transferred to an urban setting. In `Decision
', Scott's usual ambiguity is on the edge of plain craze and self destruction, his hero qualities lowered, the character's failures pretty much on the open. In this fable about the winning or recovery of Self Respect, he's the most spitted type of the film, in opposition to the bad guy, who remains unchanged despite his moral contradictions (at one point he admits to the prostitute that he's afraid, as Scott character does at one point or another in every other film of the saga). Boetticher is a master of understatement, a craftsman with an ascetic economy. Every shot is right; every cut contributes to the progress of narration. We perceive the performers' inner thoughts so they can talk about something else. The philosophic exchanges, a trademark of the director, take place not with a round of coffee by the fire but inside the saloon (that looks like a Temple, while the church is presented as a saloon), or in the restaurant, but Scott doesn't take part. He's the sort character that seems to carry unwarily a sort of magnetism, a quality which makes everybody deposit on him their own fears and expectations. A mundane redemptive figure seen on later films, like the motorcycle guy in `Rumble Fish'. All the characters are able to verbalize and unveil the hero's conscience, everybody but the hero himself, tragically crusaded on a meaningless task.
' anticipates the enclosure of `Rio Bravo', and other later westerns where the hero must overcome a tormented past, purify himself in order to purify a corrupted environment. Randolph Scott's hard features convey the primitivism of the Boetticher hero perfectly; here we discover a certain apish side of his face, something that the director's camera recognizes and photographs to emphasize his storytelling. Even if not written by usual collaborator Burt Kennedy, one of the cowboys still say the polite `I'm obliged', and as in every other Boetticher western, Mexicans are played by real Mexicanos.