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After the civil war, a man searches for the man who was responsible for the death of his friend and most of his army unit.
For more about Rio Lobo and the Rio Lobo Blu-ray release, see Rio Lobo Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 13, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: John Wayne, Jorge Rivero, Jennifer O'Neill, Jack Elam, Christopher Mitchum, Victor French
Director: Howard Hawks
» See full cast & crew
Rio Lobo Blu-ray Review
Even The Duke churned out a mediocre movie from time to time.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 13, 2011
I'm going to kill him someday.
With so many Westerns and a great number of them starring the legendary John Wayne, one can easily surmise that not every project was necessarily one that held the promise to outdo those that came before it. Any genre, any actor, any director reaches a breaking point where diminishing points of return cross that line that separates success and failure. Rio Lobo crosses that line and settles onto the wrong side, but only barely so. A completely tangential picture that's more or less a rehash of two previous John Wayne/Howard Hawks pictures -- Rio Bravo and El Dorado -- Rio Lobo is a disappointing and unnecessary film that sees all involved either on cruise control or unable to elevate their efforts to a point that the picture can achieve anything better than basic respectability. Subpar acting, an unoriginal premise, and a general sense of fatigue hang over the picture and degrade it to the point that there's nothing left to overcome the repetitive nature of the plot. The movie looks good and generally holds audience interest, but it does move along more or less as an indistinguishable blur with every scene, character, setting, and line of dialogue all feeling recycled and rehashed for no particular reason, other than to get one more John Wayne picture on the marketplace, and a dull one at that.
At the tail end of the Civil War, Union Colonel Cord McNally (John Wayne) is tasked with protecting a shipment of gold being transported via rail. Before it can reach its destination, it's hijacked in a daring and original heist perfectly executed by a band of Confederate soldiers, led by Captain Pierre Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Sergeant Tuscarora Phillips (Christopher Mitchum). As if losing the shipment weren't bad enough, McNally's longtime friend and protege, Lieutenant Forsythe (Peter Jason) is killed in the attack. McNally tracks down the culprits, who take him prisoner but themselves fall prisoner to Union forces soon thereafter. With the War quickly wrapped up, McNally teams up with Cordona -- a former enemy yes but a man he's found to be honest, trustworthy, and sympathetic nevertheless -- to track down the Union traitor responsible for selling out his comrades-in-arms to the Rebels and leading to Forsythe's death. The trail leads them to the corrupt town of Rio Lobo where on the way they encounter a distressed young woman named Shasta Delaney (Jennifer O'Neil) who will prove invaluable in tracking down the traitor and saving the town.
Rio Lobo kinda-sorta mixes the Western genre with Mystery, but make no mistake, this is a six-gun, lever-action, John Wayne movie at its core. The film is respectably good enough to watch, accentuated by traditional Western stalwarts which are strong costuming, lush photography, and eye-catching sets and shooting locations. Hawks's direction is smooth and that the movie works as well as it does is a testament to his raw abilities as a filmmaker, for no doubt the picture is otherwise the very definition of a mediocre Western. John Wayne is the one and only selling point, and even The Duke's biggest fans will be somewhat disappointed that he neither puts forth his best effort nor is surrounded by anything resembling a quality supporting cast. Rio Lobo's actors look good, which only seems to reinforce that this is a completely superficial picture, one that's solidly handsome throughout but that doesn't have any meat under the surface. Whether the tired plot or the lackadaisical performances, Rio Lobo never really takes off, the picture more or less running on fumes, gaining a little bit of steam during its opening heist sequence and with a relatively well-staged and exciting shootout at the end but sputtering along for most of its runtime.
Despite a sluggish middle stretch, a bland story, chunky pacing, and a general sense of repetitive fatigue that permeates the entire movie, Rio Lobo's acting is perhaps the worst single offender and the one area that might have allowed the movie to excel had it been improved upon. Wayne never seems quite sure with what to do with his character; despite a few moments where he still proves to be a fast draw and one tough hombre, he seems more like a teddy bear than an ex-military man on the warpath and out to avenge the death of his friend. Though that's the basics of the plot, one can't help but feel like the movie tiptoes around it for whatever reason, and Wayne's performance is resultantly unbalanced. The remainder of the cast almost to a player struggles to find the necessary gusto and raw ability to not only play alongside John Wayne, but to carry the plot. The story seems all the weaker because the performances feel so raw, forced, and uncertain. The actors give the movie a staged, phony feel, but then again the script -- which basically rehashes the same story seen in other films -- plays without much enthusiasm or certainty, which is no help to an already-struggling cast. Rio Lobo just seems like it would have been better left unmade; it has almost everything going against it, and even the iconic John Wayne just can't overcome the glaring weaknesses that degrade Rio Lobo into a watchable but certainly low-tier Western.
Rio Lobo Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rio Lobo isn't quite as crisp and satisfying as one would expect of a Paramount catalogue Blu-ray title. The studio has seemingly slapped a dated and slightly tattered HD master onto Blu-ray, and the results are less than striking. The image holds up reasonably well, but never demonstrates more than basic competency in any area of concern. The film opens with some terribly heavy wobble and features some lingering debris over the opening title sequence; the former disappears as the movie gets underway, but the latter remains throughout, with pops, scratches, stains, and stray lines sometimes appearing in such bulk as to be a distraction from the movie. Colors are slightly faded, not bad looking but not at all vibrant, with weak greens, uninspired blues, and dusty earth tones that are bland even for shades of tan. Detail is the transfer's best asset, and even that is sometimes shaky. The 1080p resolution will allow for greater crispness and stability on larger displays, but even then detailing is merely adequate, with seams on a train, the worn wooden lines on a restaurant table, natural vegetation, and facial and clothing textures all ranging from fair-to-good, never dropping to "poor" but never ascending to "excellent." Blacks are fair, with both day-for-night and night-for-night shots holding up equally well. There are a handful of blocky backgrounds and poor color gradations, neither of which are major causes for concern. Film grain is light at best and seemingly scrubbed away at worst, but never, it seems, to the detriment of fine detailing. Rio Lobo could certainly use a once-over, if not a full-blown restoration. As it is, this transfer's primary asset will be its stability on larger displays.
Rio Lobo Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rio Lobo's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack fares somewhat better than its 1080p video counterpart. The picture opens with guitar strums that are satisfactorily airy and crisp, with music in general enjoying an effortless flow and nice spacing across the front. While lacking in absolute clarity and seamlessness, the overall presentation is quite good. However, the "5.1" monicker sometimes seems as if it is just for show. For as many surround elements as there may be, there's an equal number of instances where the material seems unnaturally confined to the front. Ambient effects in particular are limited in both range and space, but a moving train -- as somewhat puny and absent of real energy as it may seem -- does manage to rumble right through the listening areal. A gunfight at the end of the film also demonstrates some vigor and clarity. Dialogue is generally crisp and accurate as it stays grounded in the center channel. This is by no means a revealing or all-time great soundtrack, but for the most part it certainly suffices and then some.
Rio Lobo Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Rio Lobo features no extras.
Rio Lobo Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rio Lobo doesn't excel as a genre-defining picture, nor does it really disappoint to the level of becoming unwatchable. It's a far lesser picture than viewers might rightly expect from a Howard Hawks/John Wayne collaboration, but it's still vastly superior to bottom-scraping genre pictures. Poor acting and a rehashed story are the two primary culprits here. The film starts and ends well, but the sluggish middle section will likely lose a lot of viewers before the exciting concluding shootout. Unfortunately, Rio Lobo will be best -- and maybe really only -- remembered as the final picture in legendary Director Howard Hawks's career. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Rio Lobo delivers a decent 1080p transfer seemingly sourced from an older master, a fair lossless soundtrack, and no extras. Fans should be just pleased enough given they find the disc on a good sale. Otherwise, best to just give this one a rent.
Rio Lobo Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Paramount Announces Western Blu-ray Wave, Including Once Upon a T... - March 21, 2011
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced no fewer than four western movies from its late-60s and early-70s catalog for Blu-ray release on May 31, in time for Father's Day: Big Jake (George Sherman, 1971), A Man Called Horse (Elliot Silverstein, 1970), Once Upon ...
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