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USA 1972
Directed by
Philip Kaufman
91 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid

Philip Kaufman’s debut as a writer-director pretty much captures the two styles of the Western in the anti-establishmentarian late 60s – part mainstream jaunty caper movie a la George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), part fin de siecle pessimism a la Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969).

Robert Duvall plays Jesse James, a Ned Kelly figure, albeit with a ruthless side, a former Confederate irregular who hates the Yankee businessmen who are forcing Missouri farmers off their land. James and his men have a kind of hero status in their home state which is planning to give them an amnesty.but railroad interests put a stop to this and send the well-known detective, Pinkerton (Herbert Nelson), to put an end to James. Meanwhile the latter plans to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, an idea he stole from his partner-in-crime, Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson) who eventually joins him in what will turn out to be a collective debacle.

With music by Dave Grusin, the film initially leans towards the Butch Cassidy light-hearted style with lots of wenching and general outlaw hijinks. The anomaly is that Kaufman’s James is a sociopath with a murderous hatred of Yankees and this eventually takes the material into darker waters although visually the film, photographed by Bruce Surtees, tends still to be unadventurousto have much effect. The sequence in which the gang are wiped out by the posse is probably the best moment of the film and shows what with a harder edge The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid might have been  As it is it is near miss and representative enough of its time.

DVD Extras: Theatrical Trailer. Available as part of a 10 disc box set that also includes Ulzana’s Raid, Man Without A Star, Backlash, Forty Guns, Broken Arrow, Broken Lance, The Bull Of The West, Texas Across The River, and 100 Rifles

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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