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Rio Bravo

A classic Western with plenty of action, laughs and even a couple of songs thrown in for good measure, Howard Hawks' RIO BRAVO is a ton of old fashioned fun.

in 1959, uber-Director Howard Hawks crafted one of his landmark mixes of big stars and big landscapes with this tale of small town sheriff John Chance (John Wayne in a home run performance) who has captured the no-good brother of a powerful and rich bad guy Nathan Burdette (John Russell).

Wayne has to hole up and wait days for the US Marshalls to arrive, setting up the now classic plot line of a handful of good guys holding off a much larger crowd of well funded bad guys with guns.

John Carpenter would brilliantly knock off the plot in 1976, basically remaking the film set in a modern police station in "Assault on Precinct 13".

But Hawks and Wayne did it first and best.

Walter Brennan is hilarious as Chance's loyal sidekick Stumpy, as fast with a whiny complaint as he is a shotgun.

Dean Martin is surprisingly good as town drunk "Dude" who becomes a loyal deputy against the multitude of bad guys who pocket a $50 gold piece if they try to get Burdette's brother out of jail.

Angie Dickinson is a young and beautiful girl with a past that falls for Chance and Ricky Nelson is Colorado, a young gunslinger who throws in with the outnumbered sheriff.

Hawks manages to squeeze in a midnight duet between Martin and Nelson as our heroes are barricaded in the police station and it plays just fine, while teetering on the cheesy scale.

It's pretty hilarious to watch pop star Ricky Nelson turn in a solid performance as Colorado while the very young Dickinson flounders in her role. Angie gained a lot more acting chops in the sixties, and that's a good thing because Wayne completely carries her here.

Hawks is arguably the most influential director in the creation of the American Western film and its all on display in RIO BRAVO.

At nearly two and half hours, the film is never boring and features plenty of character arcs for most of the major players. Most of them are very different people by the end of the film.

Of course, at the story and the film's center is John Wayne, who played this same good man with many different names for decades on film.

The Duke makes it look easy.

Watching the film now, you can see the major influence it had on the sensibilities of directors like Quentin Tarantino and Clint Eastwood, who featured Russell (Burdette) in his modern classic western "Unforgiven".

With plenty of bullets, dynamite and dusty showdowns for any movie lover, RIO BRAVO is classic old west fun that we'll saddle with an A.

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