Bronco Billy (1980) Directed By Clint Eastwood

After reading a slandering and biased biography on Clint last fall, I have developed a new kind of curiosity for the man. Well, yes, he already appeared in my lyrics before reading this book...Clint is the other house-hold god in our address (the first one being Woody); one that we respect, love, argue about, even hate, but always revert back to.

Bronco Billy then: It opens with the worst opening song I have ever heard. Bad country music.
It simply does not set any kind of mood except that of standing in line at a gas station waiting to pee after a long drive to nowhere. No, even that was too much of a mood. And while listening to this song I cannot shake the thought that Clint owns this rubbish song so as to make money also on it's air performances and so on. Clever.

The movie is much better than the song. Bronco Billy is the owner of a pathetic Wild West Show.
He is poor, not so great at his craft, but hey, he's got a heart in the right place and some right-on principles (eat your oatmeal, don't fall for hard liquor and cigarettes, say your prayers).
The film attempts to reveal Billy as a multifaceted character with a conventional past gone wrong. He is originally a city kid with no knowledge of cowboys and Indians. He was married but his wife had an affair with his best friend...

Of course, at the heart of this movie there is a love story. I don't need to go into it much, but curious details prevail: after Billy has saved his love interest from rape, he himself attempts to kiss her and more. Is this a joke? Guess what, they fall asleep leaning on each other and later after much refusal from the lady, she throws herself onto Billy. Having sex changes her character from cold bitch to brainless squealing softie in one second. Thank you Mr. director. I can appreciate Clint for straightening the lines, but sometimes his directness becomes idiotic and undermines any real character development.

I was entertained. I felt like I was watching a children's movie and yet, I wouldn't want children to see this one.

Sometimes it's hard being an Eastwood fan. Yes, he's a left leaning republican. Yes, he represents some old macho values and probably supports the use of hand guns and the death penalty. He's probably anti-abortion (though been responsible for a few over the years!) But for me, he's also one of the great artists of American Cinema. You don't have to share a political ideology to admire someone's work. In fact it's been interesting over the years to watch Clint spew liberal ideas and themes from a right wing perspective.

Eastwood has described Bronco Billy as his Frank Capra moment and yes this film is old fashioned, but mostly in the sense that the central character, Bronco Billy (Eastwood, great) is a man out of time, a Cowboy and the fastest draw in the West. Of course, this being 1980, nobody really needs Bronco's western values and morality. A Traveling Cowboy show with Bronco Billy being the main attraction of a bunch of misfits bringing good old Western entertainment to half empty audiences in the mid west. Sandra Locke plays an heiress mistaken for dead who joins Bronco's show as his assistant. A love/hate relationship ensues until Eastwood get's the girl. The mantra throughout is be who you wanna be.

This film offers many small chuckles and a great set of performances (Sandra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis and Scatman Crothers). It's also another example of Eastwood gently mocking his Man With No Name persona. At the time of this film's release, Eastwood was the biggest box office draw in the world. This offbeat film offers another example of Eastwood taking risks and defying his audiences expectations and notions of who he is . A small treasure.


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