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The Shooting (1966) April 8th, 2021

The Shooting looks like it was shot by a group of talented young filmmakers on a shoestring budget. All the low budget hallmarks are there. Dependency on location shooting for production value, no costume changes, minimal effects, overabundance of dialogue heavy scenes. I liked it a lot!

The minimalist plot may be the result of budgetary constraints but that works in The Shooting’s favor. A wayward woman propositions two gold miners as guides to a nearby settlement. The miners accept her offer for a $1,000 fee. She agrees but something’s off about her. Where did she come from? Why does she have so much cash? Why the rush to break trail?

The woman’s mysteriousness deepens when she refuses to share her name. She won’t even appease them with a pseudonym. And then there’s the shooting. She occasionally fires her pistol as they travel through the rough desert countryside, not aiming at anything, just for the sound of it. The miners, bothered by her behavior, shrug it off and continue on the trail… before noticing a lone horseman in the distance following them.

It’s Jack Nicholson, and he’s not following because it’s fun, he knows this woman. They’re in cahoots, and it appears her wayward gunshots were crude signals to help him catch up with her. But why?

Spoilers (I guess), turns out they’re chasing another guy. Not sure who, not sure why. It’s probably explained in the film but the poor on set audio quality makes some of the dialogue unintelligible. Eventually Nicholson kills the dumber of the two miner-guides because he’d gotten sweet on the mystery woman. Don’t fret, our protagonist played by Warren Oates gets his revenge with the help of the hot desert sun.

Oates seizes his vengeful opportunity when Nicholson succumbs to the heat and stumbles into the dirt. A pretty exciting fist fight ensues and finishes with Warren smashing Nicholson’s trigger hand with a large stone, taking away the gunslingers most dangerous weapon.

The film finishes on a non-ending. A series of slow motion shots of the actors reeling during a final shootout with the man they’ve secretly pursued since the beginning. The final shot shows a broken Nicholson wandering the desert as ‘The End’ floats on screen.

The Shooting is enjoyable enough despite its poor production audio, the long single takes needing coverage to break up the scenes, and its incoherent ending. While not a great film The Shooting, is a good western and sometimes that’s all a guy wants to watch.

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