We Want Action: The Gauntlet (1977)

I probably got more excited than I should have when I saw that the Clint Eastwood flick (which he also wound up directing) The Gauntlet was now available on Netflix Instant. It had been hovering around the #10 spot on our DVD queue, which meant it would probably never actually make it’s way to the top thanks to new releases constantly getting upgraded. Anyway, I’ve got an affinity for this movie I barely remember for a few reasons. First and foremost, I remember watching it with my dad when I was younger. He seemed really excited about it when we either saw it on TV or rented it and the climatic scene of Eastwood driving an armor plated bus through downtown Phoenix was pretty rad. Later on in life I also discovered that classic sci-fi and comic artist Frank Frazetta created the poster you see there to the left. Pretty epic.

The film follows Eastwood, a cop, as he heads to Vegas to pick up a witness who’s supposed to testify in a mob trial, though he doesn’t know it at the time. The witness is played by his then-mate Sandra Locke who was also the female lead in the excellent Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can flicks. It soon becomes evident that Eastwood has been set up on a bum assignment as there are actually odds in Vegas that she won’t show up in Phoenix and, well, people keep trying to kill them. As the movie progresses, Eastwood and Locke figure out more of the details, realize that someone pretty high up in the police force is working with the mob to get them killed and wind up driving the aforementioned armor plated bus through downtown Phoenix as several dozen police officers open fire on it (they’ve been told Eastwood’s gone rogue, basically).

While not the most logical flick (why don’t the cops open fire on Locke at the end?) or the most flattering depiction of cops or humanity (everyone wants to kill them for some scratch), I still had a lot of fun with it. Eastwood plays his character like he does most of his other bad ass, with a heavy dose of humanity. He’s not like Stallone or Schwarzenegger characters who seem perfectly capable of enduring pretty much anything, he gets hurt and you see it, but you always assume he’ll come out on top. Luckily Locke’s a pretty damn good partner for him as she’s both street and book smart. They make a pretty good pair. On the action side of things you get Eastwood facing off against some bikers, a pretty epic chase scene between a helicopter and a motorcycle and a few other fun moments, including the climactic one.

Overall, this is yet another solid entry in Eastwood’s amazing filmography of which I need to write more about. Really, I’ll take any excuse to watch Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can again. How can you go wrong with a fighting monkey?!

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