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Clint Eastwood plays an alcoholic, dim-witted cop, Ben Shockley, who has to escort an irate prostitute, Gus Mally (Sondra Locke), from Las Vegas to Phoenix so she can testify in a mob trial. Gus immediately warns Ben of the danger that they're in, but he doesn't believe her. He eventually figures out that his superiors want Gus dead and chose him for the job because they thought he'd fail. The two spend most of the film eluding the trigger-happy cops. The banter between Ben and Gus, who initially despise each other, is just as brutal and entertaining as the action set pieces. And when the two finally warm to each other, it's surprisingly effective.
Eastwood and Locke made many films together, but 'The Gauntlet' features what may be their strongest collaboration. Literal-minded critics may malign the film for its over-the-top explosive action, but it's clear that Eastwood was aware of how outrageous and preposterous the action in the film is. As Jan De Bont would later do with another wildly entertaining and implausible film involving a bus, 'Speed', Eastwood here has stripped down the action movie to its bare essence. 'The Gauntlet' is a fun ride.
For more about The Gauntlet and the The Gauntlet Blu-ray release, see the The Gauntlet Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 16, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, William Prince, Bill McKinney, Carole Cook
Director: Clint Eastwood
» See full cast & crew
The Gauntlet Blu-ray Review
This slow-paced Action film flops on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 16, 2009
On a scale of ten I'd have to give her a two, and that's only because I've never seen a one before.
Even the best actors appear in films that don't particularly live up to the quality of the whole of their careers. Nicolas Cage has The Wicker Man, Kevin Bacon Hollow Man, Al Pacino 88 Minutes, Harrison Ford Firewall, Ben Kingsley The Love Guru, and the list goes on. For Clint Eastwood, the Actor/Director whose career has spanned decades and styles, one of the lower points of his career came in 1977 with The Gauntlet, a passable but ultimately underwhelming and, quite frankly, boring Action picture that plays as sometimes repetitive, sometimes dull, and sometimes as both. Of course, when compared to his complete body of work -- including The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Dirty Harry, Heartbreak Ridge, Unforgiven, In the Line of Fire, and Million Dollar Baby, -- a mid-1970s Action retread is bound to fall into the depths of mediocrity. Clint still gives it a go, and delivers a suitable performance, but the rest of the film leaves much to be desired.
Phoenix police officer Ben Shockley (Eastwood) is assigned the case of retrieving and escorting "a nothing witness for a nothing trial" named Augustine "Gus" Mally (Sondra Locke, Every Which Way But Loose) from Las Vegas back to Phoenix. It turns out that Gus is more than a common witness. She's in the mob's crosshairs, and they're going to pull out all the stops to ensure that she doesn't reach Phoenix alive. The bookies in Sin City are even taking wagers on how likely she is to survive the trip, and the odds only become longer. Shockley, however, is not one to stand by and watch his witness die. He stands firm in the face of incessant danger from the mob, a motorcycle gang, and even the police force itself. In the race to return to Phoenix alive, Shockley and Mally must work together and form a close bond of trust and respect, not to mention a nose for trouble and a knack for getting out of it, if they are to make it back to Phoenix alive.
The Gauntlet is an Action picture that never really does anything. In fact, the two major action sequences both involve dozens of police officers standing and shooting at a large objects, an immobile one in an early scene and a barely-moving vehicle in the other. It plays like the anti-Speed, the ending in particular anything but harrowing, dangerous, or even all that interesting. The concept for the movie is decent (and it was re-done, better in fact, in the 2006 Bruce Willis/Mos Def picture 16 Blocks), although the execution and tension is minimal here. It's no secret who the bad guy is from almost the very beginning, and the film's outcome is never really in question. The characters are sufficiently developed for a middle-of-the-road Action movie, though it's hard to become all that sympathetic towards their plight. Part of that comes from the film's predictable nature, the other from the fact that, despite some exposition and insight into their pasts and motivations, the characters are terribly dull. Both Eastwood and Locke bring a bit of zest to their parts but never elevate the characters past the fairly generic traits and tendencies introduced in the script.
The Gauntlet Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Gauntlet travels onto Blu-ray with a decent 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer. Detail is decent across the board. Sandy desert terrain and rock faces, clothing, and facial detail all stand out nicely, each showcasing a fair level of texture and realism. The image remains rather sharp throughout with only a few overly soft shots, with particularly nice looking color reproduction. The disc sees a strong assortment of colors, in backgrounds and clothing in particular, and each is rendered nicely. Grain is minimal, blacks are solid, and flesh tones remain rather steady, only sometimes looking a bit too rosy. All in all, this is a solid if not slightly unspectacular transfer from Warner Brothers.
The Gauntlet Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Gauntlet fizzles onto Blu-ray with a disappointingly lackluster Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The film begins with dialogue that plays at a rather low level at reference volume and remains so throughout the film. The track runs the gauntlet straight down the center channel throughout the vast majority of the film, with just a hint of sound effects and music spilling over to the front sides. There is virtually no atmosphere to be heard, and the back channels only rarely feature a minor sound effect. Gunshots ring out with more of a whimper than a bang. Other sound effects -- cars cruising about, helicopters zooming overhead, the pumping of shotguns, and other assorted sonic goodies -- play as rather weak and uninspired. It isn't until the final minutes of the film that the track opens up when a barrage of gunfire pours out primarily from the front three channels. It's still underwhelming, but it's enough to wake up anyone lulled to sleep by what is otherwise a lackadaisical soundtrack.
The Gauntlet Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release attempts to run the marketing gauntlet without extras. Will it succeed, or will it die a mean and riddled death in a volley of buyer rejections?
The Gauntlet Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Gauntlet is a wholly forgettable slice of 1970s Action. It's neither all that exciting nor all that interesting. The concept is fine and the acting sufficient, but the characters are fairly flat, the pacing is sluggish, and action sequences slow and dull. In the entirety of the Clint Eastwood canon, The Gauntlet ranks as fairly low on the scale, and in the history of Action cinema, it's a completely forgettable experience. Speaking of forgettable, Warner's Blu-ray release of The Gauntlet is terribly uninspiring. Featuring decent video, a lackluster soundtrack, and no supplements (and not even a main menu), this disc is strictly for hardcore Eastwood and The Gauntlet fans only.
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