JT Film Review

134 – The Train Robbers (1973)

The Train Robbers

2/5 stars

Director – Burt Kennedy

Cast – John Wayne, Ann-Margaret, Rod Taylor, Ben Johnson, Ricardo Montalban

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I didn’t realize how late in life John Wayne kept making westerns; apparently he kept right on going right up to a couple of years before his death. I guess the John Wayne western movie was such an American institution he couldn’t stop making them any more than Old Faithful could stop gushing.

In The Train Robbers, a tired and derivative movie, he plays a gritty and authoritative man who recruits some old friends to hunt down stolen gold, which belongs to a woman whose husband was shot keeping the hiding place secret. These old and tired men stroll through a few miles of the American West to find the case of gold, “pursued” by a band of 20 men who aim to steal it from Wayne and Co. once it is discovered. This results in a gunfight or two (actually, I think literally just two), by which time we find the indomitable American hero at a train station, where he dynamites three buildings to take care of 4 or 5 straggling baddies.

It is a strange thing, but this final sequence is probably the best in the whole movie, and the final scene (in which a nice little twist is revealed) is actually wonderful. It’s a pity that the rest of the movie is so bland, boring, and just plain dull. I haven’t seen a movie this empty of vim and vigour in ages. It is as if the aging John Wayne (he was 66 at the time of filming) sapped the whole production of all energy. Quite frankly, the role (and even this type of movie) was quite unsuited to John Wayne by this point in his life. Did he continue with the same type of roles because that was all he knew? Probably.

What makes it worse is that there is nothing blatantly wrong with the story as is. It could have been fairly interesting; perhaps with some more focus on the tension between Wayne and his friends, or with more focus on Ricardo Montalban’s mysterious character, who follows both groups through the western sands. The movie just doesn’t have an iota of dramatic energy, and we merely end up with a bland feeling of vague disinterest. If only some chances were taken here, any chances at all to make it more interesting or give it a sense of urgency. Some better editing would have gone a long way. How do you have the legendary Duke in a gunfight over $50,000 in gold against 4 to 1 odds and have it be boring?

OVERALL

The Train Robbers has a decent movie buried inside it, but is smothered by an aging star who is unfit for the role, and by a total lack of urgency and suspense. Perhaps I am biased, as I’m not known for loving westerns, but I couldn’t get into this movie in the least. Maybe someone accustomed to the genre would have better luck. Maybe.

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TRAILER
(no embed available)

“The Train Robbers” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 1, 2012 - Posted by | 2 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Western, Year - 1970-1979 | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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