The year is 1976. Viking 1 lands on Mars. Hank Aaron hits his 755th home run. Jimmy Carter won the presidential election over Gerald Ford. And The Outlaw Josey Wales came to the theaters. Set in the post-Civil War South, Josey Wales is the story of a man who has lost everything, his family, his house, his land, his friends, and his spirit. The film is directed by and stars Clint Eastwood along with Sondra Locke and Chief Dan George. Going back to his original western roots, Clint Eastwood, plays Josey Wales much like how he played the Man with No Name throughout the Dollars Trilogy, with little dialogue and plenty of shooting.
The film starts with an attack on Josey Wales farm by Union Soldiers. After the soldiers burn his land and brutally murder his wife and son, Josey voluntarily joins a Confederate guerrilla band in order to get revenge on these soldiers. This group of fighters can be seen destroying Union camps and killing soldiers, led by the now infamous Josey Wales. Eventually, they are caught and forced to take the Unions oath. Josey sees this as a trap that is going to get his comrades killed. He rides down to the camp and attempts to save his fellow fighters by using a Gatling gun to obliterate the Northern troops. Josey manages to save one of his comrades and they are able to escape, as fugitives.
Josey and Jamie (the young outlaw that Josey manages to save) start to ride towards Texas. They see this is the best opportunity to escape the Union forces that are now trailing them. This part of the movie brings me to parallels with another iconic western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, because in both films two outlaws are on the run from their pursuers. Josey and Jaime escape the Union soldiers countless times, but eventually Jaime passes due to a gunshot wound he sustained during their escape from the Northern camp. This leaves Josey as a loner yet again.
Along his travels Josey picks up various other transients, including an older Indian (Chief Dan George), who contrasts with Eastwood’s character quite nicely, a young Indian girl and a family from Kansas that is searching for Eldorado. While moving west, Josey is constantly being stalked by the Northerners as well as bounty hunters looking for a price on his head. This doesn’t bother Josey, due to the fact that he is a professional when it comes to firearms and ends up killing five or six enemies before they can even get a shot off. An interesting characteristic of Josey is that after each kill and each time he fires his gun, he spits his tobacco near or towards his enemy.
Josey Wales doesn’t disappoint in the western genre. The gun slingin tobacco spittin outlaw brings more than enough action with the bare minimum in terms of dialogue, typical of an Eastwood character. The Outlaw Josey Wales is also one of Eastwood’s more underrated directed films. In this film, Eastwood brings a very gritty side of post-Civil War America, through the setting and photography, that helps set the mood for that classic western feel. If you are a fan of westerns even in the slightest bit, I highly recommend, The Outlaw Josey Wales