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Rio Lobo

Screening on Film
Directed by Howard Hawks.
With John Wayne, Jorge Rivero, Jennifer O'Neill.
US, 1970, 35mm, color, 114 min.
Print source: HFA

Hawks’ final film channels Vietnam-era domestic resentments into a vacillating tale of Civil War betrayal and vengeance, one that finds the seasoned auteur returning to tropes from Rio Bravo and El Dorado to reckon with a changing social epoch. Centering the film is John Wayne as the world-weary Cord McNally, a Union colonel who loses several of his men to a Confederate railroad attack after a traitor in his midst sells precious information regarding a gold shipment. McNally’s pursuit of justice leads him to the dusty Texas town of Rio Lobo, where he finds himself navigating local corruption alongside a young ex-Confederate prisoner (Jorge Rivero, loosely reprising the Dean Martin role in Bravo), a drunken codger (Jack Elam), and a pair of aggrieved local women (Jennifer O’Neill, Sherry Lansing). Barricades, standoffs, and shooting matches ensue, but Hawks savors the leisure time in between. The real spectacle in Rio Lobo is watching Wayne’s usual heroic authority fade to a sense of quiet resignation under the harsh desert sun.

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