'Alvarez Kelly' did have things going for it. Civil War westerns always peak interest, and then you have William Holden and Richard Widmark, who are immensely talented on their own but the dynamite explodes even more when together.
One just wishes that 'Alvarez Kelly' was much better than it was. It is easy to see why some would be enamoured by it, and every bit as easy to see why others would be frustrated. Even more so if, like me who is still not sure what to make of the film and still on the fence, you are in neither extreme and found it not a waste of time but far from great. There are a good deal of things that do work in 'Alvarez Kelly', there are also a lot of things that don't.
Holden and Widmark are the reasons to see the film. Holden plays his role in a way that's very commanding and compelling to watch, there is a tough guy charisma that translates believably on screen. Widmark's accent may be patchy, but his sinister intensity and charisma cannot be denied and are also very much evident. Their chemistry, as rivals and enemies, is terrific and explodes like dynamite.
Patrick O'Neal is decent in his role, the only other one other than Holden's and Widmark's that isn't so badly misjudged. 'Alvarez Kelly' is beautifully shot, with lots of atmosphere, grit, beauty and majestic sweep. The scenery and costumes are evocative. There is some wit in the script, some of the action excites, especially the climax, while the music rouses and the theme song is very much memorable.
Conversely, the story tends to be paced ponderously, with too many scenes not going very far if anywhere, and is further disadvantaged by constantly being side-tracked. Meaning the tone is wildly inconsistent (from jokey at first and then jarringly changes to a more serious tone) and the story structure is so unfocused and sprawling that the storytelling lacks clarity. The direction is routine at best.
With the exceptions of Holden, Widmark and to a lesser extent O'Neal, the rest of the cast are poorly used, underwritten and with little to do, this is including the two leading ladies that have the beauty but not the screen presence thanks to their blandly written roles. The script is vapid and oddball while also being over-reliant on talk, very little of it interesting and sometimes relevant. The one-sidedness may put some off.
In conclusion, apart from the production values, music, the odd bit of wit and excitement and performances and chemistry between the two leads, 'Alvarez Kelly' is heavily problematic. 5/10 Bethany Cox
Suave former Texan cattleman Alvarez Kelly now living in Mexico has little interest in the Civil War except to make some money. But after a long drive to deliver cattle to the Union he finds himself kidnapped by Confederate Colonel Tom Rossiter. With the hungry troops and civilians surrounded in Richmond by the Union army the Colonel intends, one way or the other, to persuade Kelly to help steal the herd and move it into town. Confederate money has no appeal so the Colonel resorts to other means with unexpected results.
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May 30, 2017 at 10:00 PM