20 August 2006 | TOMASBBloodhound
As entertaining as a western could be.
It's hard not to smile as you watch this film play itself out. There are just too many fine actors and top notch performances contained in this film for it to be anything but outstanding. Howard Hawks knows just how to harness this story and give each actor room enough to strut his stuff.
John Wayne plays a hired gun who comes to the aid of a drunken sheriff played to perfection by Robert Mitchum. By Wayne's side is a young man (James Caan) packing a nasty scatter-gun, and also at their disposal is a grizzled Indian fighter deputy (Arthur Hunnicutt). The four do battle with an evil land owner (Ed Asner), his hired gun (Christopher George), and several other gunslingers looking for trouble. A rival family of landowners named the MacDonalds are being pressured by Asner and his cronies. Wayne and Co. take their side, and all hell breaks loose in El Dorado.
The film is crisply paced, well-written, and the acting as good as you might expect. Even actors like Caan and Asner who might seem out of their element fit right in and hold their own. Wayne is as watchable as ever. It's a treat just to hear him say the word "Mississippi" every time he refers to Caan. Mitchum has the more demanding of the two lead roles, and it's no wonder Wayne wanted that role for himself. The toughest thing our heroes are faced with is sobering him up as he has become the laughing stock of the town he is supposed to protect. Arthur Hunnicutt, as Mitchum's deputy, seems to get a lot of the good lines and more than proves his worth when things get tough. Another person who stands out is Michele Carey who portrays one of the MacDonald clan. I'd never really heard of her before, but the woman is stunningly beautiful. She plays a resourceful woman out to kick some Asner butt.
Between the numerous shootouts, there are wonderful scenes where you can tell the stars are just happy to stand together in front of the camera. There are a few scenes that really weren't beaten to death by the genre and actually look original. A shootout involving church bells was something I hadn't seen before, though I'm hardly an expert in western lore. I wouldn't be surprised to find that someone had done it before, but it really worked in this film. Also, it was neat to see Caan blow some of the bad guys to shreds with his shotgun. That was an under-utilized weapon in old western films. His brief impersonation of a Chinaman is bound to offend some, but it's actually quite entertaining.
If you love a good western, you must not miss El Dorado. Even if you don't normally watch them, you might also find it more than worth your time.
9 of 10 stars.