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Chato's Land


Charles Bronson has always been a man of few words on screen, but he's rarely said as little dialogue as he did in 1972's rough edged Western, CHATO'S LAND.

Brosnan stars as Chato, an Apache who kills a small town sheriff in self defense. Five minutes into the movie, he's been taunted and provoked into the murder and takes off on his trusty horse as the opening credits role.

The next hour and a half is a Native American Rambo against all the men chasing him, picking them off one by one as the posse of lugheads continuously wanders into trap after trap.

Its a great bunch of lugheads though.

Jack Palance is the straight drama version of Curly in "City Slickers" as a Civil War Captain seeking justice with a fair eye.

Ralph Waite (The Waltons) is the low life older brother to Richard Jordan (Logan's Run, Raise the Titanic) a truly revolting rapist, murderer and bad neighbor.

Simon Oakland (Bullitt, The Night Stalker) is their eldest brother Jubell, blinded by revenge in his quest for Chato.

Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) and James Whitmore (Give 'Em Hell Harry) bring strong character work to the posse as well.

Director Michael Winner (Death Wish, The Mechanic) has no filter in showing the strong PG-13 rape and vile attacks on Chato's wife by Jordan and the gang.

Just as he did in "Death Wish" the following year, he portrays the graphic violence setting up Brosnan as a ruthless killing machine.

It's pretty distasteful and just about derails the film, as does the clumsy camerawork by Robert Paynter, who seems thrilled by constantly zooming WAY in and WAY out from key parts of the action. It must have been his new camera trick in 1972, but he'd go on to do MUCH better work in "American Werewolf in London".

The pace is pretty slow, but Brosnan and the cast throw the whole thing on their dusty backs and keep you mildly interested.

Director John Landis was a camera assistant on this film and has told legendary stories about the 6 plastic Saguaro cactus that they kept moving around on the set to make Spain look like the American Southwest. Watching the movie, I knew there was something bizarre about the cacti, but I couldn't place it. Makes more sense now!

Chato's Land is an early entry in what would become Bronson's massive film stardom for 30 years.

It's not one of his best, for that I'd point to "The Great Escape" or "Telefon". CHATO gets a C.

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