Directed by Marlon Brando
Running from the law after a bank robbery in Mexico, Dad Longworth finds an opportunity to take the stolen gold and leave his partner Rio to be captured. Years later, Rio escapes from the prison where he has been since, and hunts down Dad for revenge. Dad is now a respectable sheriff in California, and has been living in fear of Rio's return.
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★★★½ review by Cinemonster on Letterboxd
An unevenly directed and edited film, One-Eyed Jacks shows Marlon Brando at both his best and worst. A lovely unsung performance by Karl Malden and solid cinematography from Charles Lang are the highlights. Supporting cast, including Slim Pickens and Ben Johnson, are also solid. No one takes a beating onscreen like Brando. David Webb Peoples clearly saw this film before writing Unforgiven. Not too many projects can claim to have canned talent the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Sam Peckinpah.
★★★★ review by b3n434 on Letterboxd
Too long for some, too short as far as I’m concerned. What’s initially a standard grungy western revenge tale steadily evolves into a grandiose melodrama fully realized against incessant crashing waves and Freudian romance (but still owning a satisfactory amount of savage violence). Also, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens (hell, even Timothy Carey shows up for a bit in a drunken shimmy) all in the same movie, so you can’t really complain.
★★★½ review by rischka on Letterboxd
most interesting as a sort of bridge between trad westerns and spaghetti westerns which soon came to dominate the form; production began in the late 50s but it wasn't released til '61. kubrick was fired cuz he wanted spencer tracy and brando insisted on malden (he was right). you can also see how an early draft by peckinpah made it's way into pat garrett and billy the kid. reportedly brando did not want to play the psychotic killer peckinpah had in mind. also brando's preferred ending had malden accidentally shooting his stepdaughter as she chases after brando but the studio nixed it. it's a tad overlong and the romance a little maudlin (esp the studio ending i think) but shockingly good for a first time director who never directed again? he wasn't happy with the experience apparently and complained for years it wasn't the film he intended. of course his cut was 5 hours long lol
★★★★ review by James on Letterboxd
Marlon Brando's one and only film as a director is as interesting as its troubled production. A fascinating blend of traditional movie production values and the more emotive, revisionist efficacy of the New Hollywood movement that began spurring into action around this time. The last ever film shot in VistaVision, it marks an intriguing crossover period between the two eras.
With Stanley Kubrick originally set to direct and with Sam Peckinpah writing the script, this could have been an entirely different western altogether. Despite having such an inexperienced director at the helm, One-Eyed Jacks is a remarkable achievement, both the start and end of what could have been a gifted filmmaker's career. Brando's eye for detail and framing is superb, some of the shots look like something John Ford could have done and the gorgeous coastal California landscape is captured in all its rugged glory.
The whole cast are superb, Brando is his usual sultry self and casting his longtime friend Karl Malden really paid off, they have a compelling dynamic and a palpable onscreen history.
With a stunning restoration undertaken thanks to Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, this one definitely needs some reappraisal, it certainly isn't deserving of a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite being overlong, unfocused and uneven, it remains truly captivating and full of surprises. I've never seen a film in this genre that appears familiar yet is like nothing else out there.
It might not rank up there with the best but western fans should definitely give this a go.
★★★★½ review by Wilson on Letterboxd
One-Eyed Jacks feels increasingly like a distillation of its influences, influences that never made it to the final picture. The Stanley Kubrick visual precision, and the Sam Peckinpah echoes of friendships gone wrong. It is somewhere between Ride the High Country, and The Wild Bunch. But with Marlon Brando behind the camera, as director, for the only time, it is something else as well.
It is an egotistical ode to his own face, while being a slightly sadistic assassination of his own character's character. It is a bold, talky, occasionally choppy, Western, that breathes during its 142 minutes, where opaque motivations meets a fairly straight-forward plot. It is a brilliant meeting between Brando and Karl Malden, with romance provided by Pina Pellicer and Katy Jurado; it has one of those melodramatic, grand romances, that it is hard to remember you are in a revenge western at times, as Brando lets the film get away from him, but brilliantly so.
The film has so many perfectly formed small scenes. Brando threatening Slim Pickens; Timothy Carey storming the film. But as a whole, it is overwhelming. A Billy the Kid story, that just drifts south and ignores all the conventions. Improvisational and raw. Somewhere between time. Between 1960s studio filmmaking, and 1970s New Hollywood. Large-scale, intimate, sprawling, but simple.
A brilliant, one-of-a-kind Western. Nothing else quite like it, doubt there ever will be.
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