Shoot Out (1971)


A gunfighter, Clay Lomax (Gregory Peck, To Kill A Mockingbird), is released from prison and he immediately starts looking for his ex-partner, Sam Foley (James Gregory, The Manchurian Candidate), the man he blames for his misfortunes. Meanwhile, Lomax “inherits” a little girl (Dawn Lyn, Walking Tall) from an ex-girlfriend.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Shoot Out reunited most of the team that made True Grit (1969): producer Hal B. Wallis, veteran director Henry Hathaway (The Sons of Katie Elder) and writer Marguerite Roberts. Both movies deal with the relationship between an aging gunfighter and a young girl. Unfortunately, the lighting didn’t strike them twice. It’s not hard to see why the film never found an audience.

Shoot Out has serious tonal balance issues. The film mixes, awkwardly, gun violence with cute humor — think Sam Peckinpah-meets-Punky-Brewster. 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 moments of cruelty.

Gregory Peck gives his expected robust performance — the actor is a joy to watch! Peck does an excellent job playing a man who has out-lived his usefulness. However, Little Dawn Lyn (pop-star Leif Garret’s kid sister) has neither charm nor acting ability. You can clearly see Peck struggling to create rapport with the child.

I wasn’t impressed with Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Lords of Salem) either — she plays Peck’s love interest and gives a strangely cold performance. The inimitable Susan Tyrrell’s (Fat City and Forbidden Zone) is fine as a pathetic prostitute but the role serves no purpose in the film.

I did like James Gregory as Peck’s nemesis. Characater actors Arthur Hunnicutt (The Big Sky and El Dorado) and Paul Fix (Marshal Micah, TV’s The Rifleman) are excellent too. Also worth noting: Dave Grusin’s (Three Days of the Condor and On Golden Pond) lovely music score and Earl Rath’s (Busting and Peeper) cinematography.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

This Hal B. Wallis production has many things going for it, except a solid script. Shoot Out simply doesn’t work. Peck is the best thing about Shoot Out — this is a decidedly average western. Mostly for hardcore western aficionados and Peck completists. Color, 95 minutes, Rated PG.

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