Clint Eastwood is the dictionary definition of the Western Badass, John Wayne maybe the quintessential cowboy but with The Outlaw Josey Wales Eastwood proves there is no one more dangerous in the west than he. Set during the end of the American civil war, Josey Wales had his family killed and home destroyed by pro Union guerrilla fighters. After this he joins a band of outlaws fighting against them but after a deception killing many members of Wales’s gang, he is forced to go on the run. Wales is hunted by the men who killed his family and bounty hunters who want his head.
Josey Wales isn’t going down without a fight as the film covers the story of how he tries to escape from his hunters but finds himself being a hero to people. Wales develops a gang of sorts of mismatched people who travel with him. The film shows a country in recovery, the Civil War was one of America’s darkest times and to see the aftershocks portrayed in this film are powerful. Josey is a man disconnected, distasteful of the world and just wants to be separate from it all. He’s branded an outlaw by the new order of America, the same people that turned him into the man he is. Josey Wales is the product of a country’s destruction.
Eastwood brings that cool emotionally reserved nature to Wales similar to what he did in Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. Wale’s pain and sense of vengeance come across much stronger this time, however. The Man with No Name was also a Man with little back story so Josey Wales gives Eastwood some new opportunities as an actor. Eastwood is the most standout actor in the film besides John Vernon as Fletcher but everyone does their part. The film doesn’t shy away from the violent nature of man: brutal shootouts, rapes, executions and its tough to watch at times. It also goes to show that despite being branded as an outlaw there is a sense of morality to Josey – he is cruel to those who is cruel to others.
Intense and memorable, The Outlaw Josey Wales is one of those westerns that leaves a lasting impression on the audience. A man driven by tragedy and transformed into a criminal outlaw, it’s a story that we can relate to. What would we do if our family was taken from us and when Josey finds himself with the opportunity to avenge them you rooting for him to do so. A great showcase for Eastwood both as an actor and director, The Outlaw Josey Wales is the western audiences need to see.