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McQueen plays young half-Indian/half-white Max Sand, whose parents are murdered by a trio of bandits (Martin Landau, Arthur Kennedy, Karl Malden.) McQueen was 36 years old in 1966, the year NEVADA SMITH was made, and was probably a decade past the time when he could effortlessly portray a naïve young hero. There's a brief, disturbingly violent scene at the beginning of the movie where the three villains are torturing Smith's parents, and the woman portraying McQueen's Kiowa mother doesn't look much older than 35. Still, McQueen brings a wide-eyed innocence to his performance that tremendously helps us suspend disbelief. Besides, I believe I counted exactly zero close-ups in this action western. If you want to check out the crow's feet around McQueen's eyes you'll have to look hard and fast to see them.
McQueen gets a chance to play against some Hollywood professionals at the top of their games. Brian Keith is growlingly good as traveling gunsmith Jonas Cord, who plays Polonius to McQueen's Laertes, and plies the young stranger with instruction and advice. Max Sand won't be argued out of his mission to avenge the death of his parents, and the pragmatic Cord reluctantly agrees to be his mentor. It's through Cord and, later, a priest Sand comes across, that the movie is allowed to question its central theme - vengeance. Cord argues the practical ("You'll turn into one of the rats you're hunting,") the priest the spiritual. It's a tribute to the brilliance of McQueen's performance that by the time we reach the last scene we can see how both arguments have contributed to his maturation.Read more ›
Although the film is your average revenge-story, McQueen's performance along with Karl Malden, Martin Landau, Brian Keith and Susanne Pleshette, make it worth watching. McQueen stars as a young man (the script mentions that he's a boy and half-Indian, but so what?)who witnesess his parents' murder at the hands of Karl Malden's blood-thirsty gang. From there he goes on a year's long quest to hunt down each and every one of the killers, until his parents' death is avenged. He even goes so far as to land himself in a Louisianan chain gang to get one of them. What makes this movie stand out from other films in this genre, is McQueen's maturation during this process. He goes from young boy, to seasoned, cool killer by the time he reaches Karl Malden. McQueen, known for extensively underplaying a scene, gives away all kinds of subtlelties that most people missed (indeed this is why some in Hollywood didn't consider him a good actor), but that upon closer inspection one would see that he's "in character" every step of the way. The scene when he's in the swamp with one of his parents' killers and Susann Pleshette is chilling, because you see all of his rage at finally finding this man and exacting his revenge. What is more poignant is when he, at long last, has Karl Malden, and instead of killing him, leaves him there to die. You see in McQueen's eyes all of the pain, and sorrow, at his parents' loss, but you also see the pity that he has for this weak, pathetic man who is nothing without a gun on his belt. McQueen simply looks at the man, shrugs and walks away. In the hands of another actor this scene would've been overplayed to the point of melodrama, but McQueen said everything that needed to be said in a few simple gestures. That's what makes a star.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
3 1/2 stars -- This well-cast Western should be better than it is. With Steve McQueen, Karl Malden, Martin Landau, Brian Keith, Raf Vallone, and Arthur Kennedy, there's a wealth of... Read morePublished 6 days ago by Stanley Crowe
Read the book years ago, the movie does the book justice. Really a great McQueen moviePublished 1 month ago by Genevieve
He's my favorite, the movie is not his best but well worth seeingPublished 2 months ago by greg white
Steve Mcqueen. 'nough said. This is one of those movies rarely played on television, so I have it now for my persoal library.Published 3 months ago by STEVE BABCOCK