Movie Review: Posse (1975)
“”Posse” begins like most Westerns. It ends like none of them. It will knock you off your horse.”
Director: Kirk Douglas
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Bruce Dern, Bo Hopkins
Synopsis: A cynical, politically motivated lawman and his posse pursue a gang of train robbers.
The US electorate was still reeling from the discovery that its forces of law and order were apparently riddled with corruption when Kirk Douglas’s Posse was released, and it’s from this background that the film appears to draw its story. Douglas (The Brotherhood, There Was a Crooked Man) plays Nightingale who, at face value appears to be an ostensibly upright crusading law enforcer on the trail of Jack Strawhorn (Bruce Dern – Django Unchained, Nebraska) and his band of outlaws. However, he’s motivated not so much by a desire to serve his adoring public, but to use the issue of crime to further his own ambitions to become a senator. Strawhorn, like the crack posse of lawman who work for Nightingale, is therefore nothing more than an instrument exploited by Nightingale to help him obtain his dream.
Bruce Dern makes a wholly likable villain who, in a way, is more honest than his pursuer in as much as he makes no secret of who or what he is, and is in fact more principled than Nightingale. Strawhorn attempts to reason with a lone lawman who is attempting to prevent him from leaving town, assuring him that he (the lawman) will die if he tries to take him on. Nightingale, when faced with a band of hapless misfits attempting to give themselves up simply has them all mercilessly slaughtered. Douglas’s Nightingale is a man confined – and therefore defined – by his ambition, but once his people see through him he is nothing more than a powerless bully issuing empty threats. It’s a shame that Posse isn’t directed by a director more experienced than Douglas, as it has all the ingredients to make it a great movie in the hands of a director with the necessary insight and ambition. Unfortunately, Douglas just doesn’t pass muster behind the camera, so the film remains intriguing without ever being entirely successful.
(Reviewed 17th November 2011)