[Film Review] Red River (1948)

Red River poster

Title: Red River
Year: 1948
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Western, Action, Adventure
Directors:
Howard Hawks
Arthur Rosson
Writers:
Borden Chase
Charles Schnee
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Cast:
John Wayne
Montgomery Clift
Joanne Dru
Walter Brennan
John Ireland
Harry Carey
Harry Carey Jr.
Noah Beery Jr.
Chief Yowlachie
Coleen Gray
Paul Fix
Ivan Parry
Dan White
Mickey Kuhn
Shirley Winters
Rating: 7.4/10

Red River 1948

Howard Hawks’ western venture starring Wayne and Clift (his career debut indeed) as two plumb opposite types of men from almost every aspect, lead a mighty cattle migration in the vast prairie and notably to stride across the red river, but en route, the bigoted Thomas (Wayne) slowly loses his trust among his crew, and dissent emerges, eventually his adopted son Matthew (Clift) has to oust Thomas in order to finish their drive to the right destination, an ultimate chase from Thomas will heighten the drama to its peak.

To say nothing of the deployment of the night stampede rumpus, plainly wielding such a massive quantity of cattle is undisputedly taxing for the crew meanwhile an awe-inspiring spectacle for its audiences in the primitive black and white. All along this laborious trek, there are presumably threats looming large (native Indians or borderline gangsters), but what’s fatal to the solidarity is the disruption from within, Thomas is a hard-bitten fogey, his tyrannical domination of the bunch is short-sighted, but in propria persona, he is not a loathsome character (at least not as he assumes to be), he has a wound in his heart, a responsibility to shield his properties, and a paternal attachment to Matthew, so he takes the mutiny too seriously and there is a death wish in his heart to sacrifice and sublimate himself to a higher cause of love, very stupid and rather egotistic in hindsight, but probably is the fashion for the sake of manhood during the time within a tunnel vision.

However, rather interestingly Matthew represents exactly another fashion of manhood, a percipient, tender-hearted gunslinger with a slender figure and an appealing face, exuding an irresistible sex appeal which panders to meet more modern eyes. Thus the conflict can also be reckoned as a combat between these two sorts of aesthetics, yet, in my humble opinion, the biggest letdown is the hasty ending, on the brink of an eye, a gratuitous buffer (a babbling Dru) abruptly jumps into the foreground and lambastes them in a most comic way which is not aligned with the wholesome tone whatsoever, then everything has been miraculously resolved, what an inadequate happy ending and an overkill to all the tension amassed for almost 2 hours.

Anyway, it is a solid western picture and Wayne even proves to be a qualified thespian against a ravishing Clift, Brennan is the comic relief and Dru is literally redundant with a ridiculous and belly-laughing reaction after being shot in the shoulder by an arrow. But the most LOL reference is a tacit pun comes alive with Ireland’s banter with Clift – “There is a good-looking gun you were about to use back there, can I see it? Maybe you’d like to see mine!”, hell yeah, no one can resist that!

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