Clay Lomax (Gregory Peck, To Kill A Mockingbird) is released from prison after serving an eight-year sentence for bank robbery. Lomax starts immediately looking for ex-partner Sam Foley (James Gregory, The Manchurian Candidate), the man he blames for his misfortunes. Meanwhile, Foley finds out that Lomax is out and hires three gunfighters to tail him. Things get complicated when Lomax “inherits” a little girl (Dawn Lyn) from an ex-girlfriend.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Shoot Out, directed by Henry Hathaway, reunited most of the team that made True Grit (1969) — producer Hal B. Wallis, director Hathaway and writer Marguerite Roberts — and both movies deal with the relationship between an aging gunfighter and a young girl. Unfortunately, lighting didn’t strike them twice. It’s not hard to see why the film never found an audience.
Shoot Out has tonal balance issues. While Peck plays “Daddy Warbucks” to Lyn’s “Orphan Annie,” the three nasty hired hands terrorize the community — think of Sam Peckinpah meets Disney’s Pollyanna. People looking for a gritty western are going to be annoyed by the child’s antics, and viewers expecting a family film are going to be put off by crazy moments of cruelty. It just doesn’t work.
Peck gives his typical robust performance. The man is a joy to watch. Lyn (Leif Garret’s sister) has neither charm nor acting ability. You can see Peck struggling to create rapport with the child. Patricia Quinn, Peck’s love interest, gives a strangely cold performance. Susan Tyrrell’s pathetic prostitute is a cartoon character. The role serves no purpose in the film.
As for the shoot-out, well, there is no shoot-out. I did love Dave Grusin’s (Three Days of the Condor and On Golden Pond) lovely music score. Nicely shot on location in New Mexico (USA) by Earl Rath.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Peck is the best thing about Shoot Out, a decidedly average western. With Arthur Hunnicutt (The Big Sky and El Dorado), Willis Bouchey (The Judge, TV’s Perry Mason), and Paul Fix (Marshal Micah, TV’s The Rifleman). Color, 95 minutes, Rated PG.