MOVIE REVIEWS

Left Handed Gun

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6/10 NR

May 7, 1958

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By John Chard January 28, 2017

The demythologised account of Billy The Kid.

Billy Bonney is taken in by kindly rancher John Tunstall, he starts to learn respect and education, but then Tunstall is cruelly murdered. Bonney having been robbed of the one man he respected, shows his darker side and vows to seek revenge on Tunstall's killers.

This was director Arthur Penn's debut feature film, and all the traits that were to mark his name in future pictures can be found in this very good, and troubling psychological western. Based upon a teleplay by Gore Vidal entitled The Death Of Billy The Kid, Penn ensures that any notions of William Bonney being a hero are well and truly vanquished with this damning portrayal of the legendary outlaw. That this point is rammed home is down to a quite wonderful performance from Paul Newman as Bonney, boyish ignorance and sadistic tendencies making odd bed fellows as Newman plays it weirdly perfect (the role had been earmarked for James Dean until his untimely death curtailed that happening). Backing Newman up is a fine performance from John Dehner as eventual nemesis of Bonney, Pat Garrett, showing nice touches of emotion from both sides of the coin. The rest of the cast do OK and nobody either harms or enhances the picture. This really is about its director and its leading man, both would go on to greater things, but this is a fine point of reference in their respective careers, a picture that both men can be rightly proud of. 7/10

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