22 November 2003 | Virgil_Hilts_1964
Has some flaws but is still a good film.
The problem with any Steve McQueen western is that none measure up to The Magnificent Seven, his best cowboy role and one of the best westerns of all time.
Nevada Smith is not a perfect screenplay but it is nonetheless entertaining. It is the tale of a young boy who seeks revenge on three men who viciously tortured and murdered his parents. It has a predictable plot and some directorial flaws, but overall it meets the criteria for a good film; it is entertaining.
At age 36, McQueen is a bit hard to believe as a 'kid'. The story obviously spans many years in Max Sand's life and if the writers had played this up more McQueen's age would not have mattered. Even showing Max and Alex Chord in a winter setting followed by spring, something to show an extensive passage of time would have helped make McQueen's age more fitting (if he'd lost weight prior to filming it would also have helped). More emphasis should have been placed on his progression from illiterate, green half-breed to savvy gun slinger. The passage of time while he learned to read, use firearms, kill his first victim and recover from wounds at the Indian village, should all have been used more extensively to make Max Sand age into the character portrayed by McQueen.
But regardless of McQueen's actual age, by the time Max kills the first of the three men he is tracking and then gets himself thrown into a Louisiana prison to find another one, his character's age and looks are believable.
A superb cast of supporting actors backs up McQueen. Brian Keith is the perfect father figure who takes Max in and teaches him to use firearms and tells him about life and how to find the men who killed his parents. Suzanne Pleshette cannot be made to look bad no matter how hard the make up department tries. Even dirty and sweaty in the swamp, her natural beauty and class shine. These traits and her unique voice and soft movements steal any scene she is in. She almost upstages McQueen. Martin Landau, Arthur Kennedy and Karl Malden are as bad as any movie villains I ever saw.
POSSIBLE SPOILER: In the end, Max does the right thing. He purges his hate and embraces the bigger meaning of life. He doesn't forgive the murderers; he just elevates himself above them. He doesn't kill Fitch, instead after wounding him severely he walks away from a life of violence. For some reason, I believe he returns to the Indian tribe of his birth and to Neesa, the Indian woman who truly loves him. In any case, ultimately the film works.