Pale Rider (1985)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Pale Rider</strong> (1985)

(On TV, January 2019) In some ways, Pale Rider can be seen as a typical stranger-cleans-town western, what with lead Clint Eastwood playing a mysterious stranger coming to a remote mountain town to get rid of the rapacious mining tycoon that has assaulted the citizenry. But there are enough hints (in the film’s title, or the end of the prologue, or the stranger’s lack of backstory, or his near-magical shooting ability) to suggest that this is a quasi-supernatural Eastwood western along the lines of High Plains Drifter. Whether you’ll enjoy the results will depend more on your appreciation for the realistic part of the film than its more supernatural or religious implications—at least it’s considerably less creepy than High Plains Drifter. Still, Eastwood has made a truckload of westerns featuring more or less the same character, and anyone can be (un) forgiven if they have trouble telling them apart. It’s competently executed, obviously relying on Eastwood’s iconic portrayal as a man of few words—although there are a few odd moments in which producer/director/star Eastwood gets to pat himself on the back by having nearly every female character (including the teenager) throw themselves at him. (He, of course, refuses—but it’s the thought that counts.) Pale Rider may have a few symbolic and religious aspirations, but much of it remains the same old western: generic but not bad. Eastwood fans, obviously, will get a lot more out of it.

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