“This is my Gun, Clyde!”
The cool thing about The Gauntlet is the overkill. What The Blues Brother’s was to smashing police cars, the Gauntlet is to fired artillery. Here Clint comes the closest he ever came to portraying a real life policeman. He plays Ben Shockley who is a dim witted alcoholic foul up. Ben Shockley would last about twelve minutes as Harry Callahan’s partner. Sondra Locke’s prostitute Gus Mally is a rocket scientist in comparison. Toss them in with Pat Hingle as Clint’s pal and you have a College bowl team that would lose to Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble, and Dino.
The Gautlet starts out a lot like Coogan’s Bluff except Clint never wears a cowboy hat and he looks like he has slept in his clothes for about six weeks. Bottles of alcohol flop out of his car when he opens its doors. This time instead of picking up a acid headed killer he merely has to bring Locke, a Government witness from Las Vegas to Arizona. Locke’s Gus Malley tells Clint that the whole mob is out to get her. Vegas is posting odds on her safe arrival to Phoenix at the same level as The Los Angeles Clippers winning the NBA Championship. Locke desperately tries to convince Clint that he can’t trust anyone and after about 50,000 rounds of ammunition are fired at a house somehow his Shockley still isn’t convinced.
Which brings us to yes – a house. They shoot Gus Mally’s house. The Los Vegas police surround the house with Clint and Sondra inside. Instead of negotiating by phone, or sending some people in to talk, they get like 500 policeman and shoot every bullet in Nevada at the house. They don’t even aim they just keep shooting at the house until it looks like a gigantic piece of dilapidated Swiss cheese and collapses. About five minutes after that they stop firing. Luckily, Sondra had an escape tunnel installed in her house for just such an altercation and they narrowly escape much the same way a gangster does when he says “Hey Mugsy, is there another way out of this place?”
It should be noted here that if you enjoy Clint to be the one kicking tail, this may not be the movie for you. About as many rounds of ammunition are fired in The Gauntlet as the number of Happy Meals Bill Gates could air drop into Ethiopia if he felt like it and Clint shoots his police issue revolver maybe three times. Hell in The Dead Pool he almost fires that big Harpoon gun that many times. Later he gets beat up by a bunch of bikers on a train, and about the only person he gets a clean punch in at is a chick. Clint kicks less ass in this movie than he does in The Bridges of Madison County.
Since Clint directed this Sondra Locke later almost gets raped by the bikers. I have to believe that somehow Clint gets off on seeing the women in his life as either a prostitute, a rape victim, or both. In Tightrope he almost even lets his pre teen daughter get savagely deflowered while Clint is off exploring the nightly underworld. Add in Francis Fisher as the head prostitute in Unforgiven and Sondra in at least this, Josie Wales, and Sudden Impact and I think you have a disturbing trend.
After Clint gets a highway patrolman killed, he begins to realize that Sondra has been telling him the truth and that he can’t even trust his own Police Force. Rather than hit the lam like he does in the Outlaw Jesse Wales, Clint’s Shockley decides that this could be the one good thing he does in his life. The one noble act that can redeem him and give his place on the planet meaning. Locke’s Mally tries to convince Clint that this notion is about as likely to work as Charles Manson winding up in heaven after accepting a Jesus Christ other than himself on his death bed. Nevertheless, Clint’s courage in the face of certain doom leads Malley to fall in love with him, which is a pretty amazing feat since Locke hurls more insults at Clint throughout the movie than they did in the first two years of Welcome Back Kotter. He even buys her some flowers.
Having learned little from the house incident, Clint steals a bus from some Senior citizens, fortifies it with a few sheets of steel, and tells the Phoenix Police force what streets he will be taking into town. The evil Police Chief (William Prince) in turn clears the streets and lines the appropriate route with as many armed police officer as he can find. Barney Fife is called in and helps out with his one bullet. Quincy is even on hand for the post holocaust autopsy.
Clint slowly drives into town. Cue the sound of gunfire. Take the number of gun shots you have seen on television, at the movies and in real life add them all together and multiply by 100. That is how many times they shoot at the damn bus, which somehow manages to pull up onto the steps of the appropriate court house. By this time the very bright Phoenix police force decides that maybe since Clint has been fired upon like 10 million times without posing any threat to anyone else that just maybe he’s not that dangerous. Faced with a mutiny the evil police chief shoots Cliff himself. Does he survive? Are they looting everywhere else in the city now that the police have used every bullet in the budget? You’ll have to see it to find out but here is my 30 second imitation of The Gauntlet –
We see Clint Eastwood he is unshaven, smells of liquor, and his clothes are ruffled.
Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang etc.
Gus Mally: Don’t you die on me Ben Shockley!!
Ben Shockley: Nag! Nag! Nag!
Fade to credits.
Silly and gratuitous, but fun. Will only be showing at the Clint Eastwood film festival if those chimp movies are too expensive to rent.