- In a small western town, Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) holds a criminal in his jail and is anxiously awaiting a U.S Marshal to come into town and take that criminal out of his hands. Sheriff Chance is doing so "anxiously" because that certain criminal is the brother of the wealthiest rancher around - and it just so happens that out of brotherly love he has hired around 40 professional killers to try and get him back. To make matters worse, the only people that Chance has to help him in this situation is his drunken friend Dude (Dean Martin), an old curmudgeon of a crippled deputy Stumpy (Walter Brennan), and a young sharp-shooting gunslinger (Ricky Nelson).
Rio Bravo (1959) is an enormously exciting and entertaining western from legendary director Howard Hawks about accepting life's difficulties in order to do the right thing. With a posse of great characters, unforgettable performances, awesome cinematography, great atmosphere, a simple but tight story, and a lot of clever dialogue this film is fantastic and one of the best westerns ever.
What a cast! Alright, so John Wayne basically plays John Wayne wearing a bandanna and carrying a rifle for the entire film, but he does it in a very likable way - and let's face it, if your town is in trouble, John Wayne is the guy you need. Dean Martin brings a colorful take on the "Dude" character - a recovering everything let alone just a recovering alcoholic - and runs away with the film. It is easy to be a little apprehensive about Martin playing such a serious role, but he really does shine and steals away every scene as this cool, laid-back, witty, skilled, but troubled western anti-hero. Young 1950s teenybopper music star Ricky Nelson is very wooden in his role, but everything still works because his look manages to do all the convincing. Walter Brennan can be a little overbearing at times as Stumpy with his squeal of a voice in this film but he is ultimately likable and does add humor here and there, and Angie Dickinson is quite the dish as Feathers, the girl after the heart behind Wayne's sheriff badge.
Rio Bravo is as close to a perfect film as it gets - but I could have gone without Martin and Nelson's little duet. Hawks and company just had to show off Martin and Nelson's musical abilities - but in doing so they make the film a musical for five minutes. Yee haw.... But it does not hurt the film too much (Martin has a great voice after all) and you even forget about it quickly as the film moves on.
Along with the great story, characters, and performances, comes an excellent look - Rio Bravo could not have been filmed any better. It has a fantastic western look thanks to the colorful cinematography work and classic production design. Howard Hawks directs this thing to near perfection, creating some great film vibes, coming up with too many excellent shots to name, and commanding many exciting action scenes (including one of the best shootouts ever seen). But Rio Bravo is more than just a great looking film. A timeless script moves the entire film along and film scoring VIP Dimitri Tiomkin gives the film a great musical backdrop. In the end, Rio Bravo is a film that is all too easy to admire and enjoy - simply hitting the cinematic bullseye.
CBC Rating: 10/10