Sadly, other than mentioning its numerous faults, there is little I can say about The Gauntlet. Once again, Clint Eastwood plays an irascible, troubled, and almost psychopathically violent police officer. Once again, he has trouble with his superiors. Once again, he fights a variety of opponents, and so on and so on. There just is not much in the film that cannot be seen in several of the director's other movies.
That said, The Gauntlet does contain so many faults that, at the very least, it is distinguished from those other films by its inferiority to them. The story the director tells is often wildly arbitrary and its characters, very frequently, behave in ways that are absolutely incomprehensible, except insofar as their actions are useful in propelling them into some situation or another. For example, near the movie's conclusion, Shockley telephones his partner, gives him the route he will be following when he delivers his prisoner to Phoenix's city hall in a bus he has hijacked, and tells him to relay the information to the police official he believes to be behind the attacks on him and his prisoner. Even though his enemies line this route with countless armed policemen, and Shockley sees them beforehand, he does not take a different route. He drives the bus right through a virtual army of attackers, all of whom fire incessantly on his vehicle. Apparently, the only reason he adheres to the route he gave his partner is to provide the movie with the scene that gives it its title. Otherwise, he surely would have changed direction and taken some other road as soon as he saw the rows of gunmen waiting to kill him. What is more, he drives past them at an unbelievably slow speed. Again, the only reason he seems to be doing so is to lengthen the scene and make it more dramatic.
Such incomprehensible sequences are scattered throughout the movie at regular intervals and leave the viewer with no doubt that the film's characters are either mindless automatons or are merely taking certain courses of action so that they can move the story along. One or two such incidents would have decreased the quality of the film, but there are more than one or two here.
Despite its often severe flaws, The Gauntlet does, nevertheless, have a number of redeeming qualities. The action sequences are generally well choreographed and genuinely exciting, and some of the movie's scenes are given a harsh sense of reality that can be engaging. In one sequence, for instance, after Shockley has hijacked a police car, the officer driving the car makes a series of offensive comments to Gus, who is a prostitute, and she responds by making a number of equally acerbic remarks to him. The exchange may be somewhat overdone, but listening to it is genuinely enjoyable.
While such moments may intrigue the viewer, they do not, however, allow him really to be fascinated by The Gauntlet's characters, who are, without exception either forgettable nonentities or ridiculous caricatures. Even their interactions are overdone and grating. The romance that evolves between Shockley and Gus is particularly arbitrary, although it is certainly not the only irritating development in the film's story.
The Gauntlet, thanks to its action sequences and the occasional well written scene, can be entertaining, but anyone who wants to enjoy such moments will have to be able to put up with the movie's numerous faults.
Review by Keith Allen
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