Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring||Paul Newman, Diane Cilento, Martin Balsam, Fredric March, Richard Boone|
|Producer||Irving Ravetch, Martin Ritt|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox.|
Although this film has its share of Western gunplay and other conflict, it focuses more on human relationships than on violence.
John Russell (Paul Newman) is a white man living as an Apache. Some reviews say his character is half-Apache. I understood the story to be saying that he was simply taken captive as a child and raised by the Apaches. Either way, he carries internal conflict. After being “rescued” and adopted by a white man, he again chose Apache life. But when his adoptive father dies and leaves him an inheritance, he takes on white appearance and customs—at least long enough to look over the inheritance and decide what to do with it. Eventually he ends up on a stagecoach with his Mexican friend Mendez (Martin Balsam) as the driver and six fellow-passengers: Jessie (Diane Cilento), the fiery manager of a boardinghouse that Russell has just decided to sell, thus putting her out of work; a young couple with marital problems; crooked Bureau of Indian Affairs agent Dr. Favor (Fredric March) and his trophy wife (Barbara Rush); and tough-guy Grimes (Richard Boone). I’ve always liked Boone’s work, although his character in this film isn’t a hero.
Every drama involves some kind of conflict. Most movies are content with presenting a simple two-sided conflict, but the one in this story is multifaceted. The stagecoach is a microcosm of humanity, with all its best and worst qualities.
Content: There’s very little vulgar language; “bastard” is used once as a non-literal derogatory term. There’s implied nonmarital sex. One scene appears to be leading up to attempted rape, but it turns out that the man (Boone) only intends to teach the young woman not to flirt with him. There are a number of killings with firearms.
The film focuses on racism and the way “Christian” whites have treated people of color. There’s a central conflict between Russell and Dr. Favor over the issue of Favor starving the Apaches on the reservation and embezzling their food money. Some of the passengers shun Russell once they learn that he’s lived as an Apache; yet when the going gets tough, they turn to him for help. Overall, “Hombre” is much more thoughtful than your average Western.