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'The Shooting': An overlooked Western gem

The Shooting (1967)
Starring: Warren Oates, Millie Perkins, Will Hutchinson, and Jack Nicholson
Director: Monte Hellman
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A retired bountyhunter and tracker (Oates) is hired to escort a mysterious, and dangerously insane, woman (Perkins) through desert badlands. During the trip, they meet up with a hired killer (Nicholson) and the bountyhunter realizes that he is guiding the woman to an execution.

"The Shooting" is a quirky western the oozes atmosphere, mystery, and strangeness from every frame. Many questions come up about the characters and the situations they're in, but virtually none of them are answered. The ending, although in perfect keeping with everything that's led up to it--and not terribly surprising if you've been paying careful attention as they film unfolds--only heightens the questions and mystery. That sort of approach is one that bothers me in most cases, but in this film, it works.

Well-acted, well-filmed (even the day-for-night campfire scenes are tolerably well done), and unfolding with the steady, deliberate pace of a well-told suspense tale, "The Shooting" is an overlooked classic of the western genre. If you liked "Pale Rider" or "High Plains Drifter", I suspect you'll appreciate this movie as well.

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