Cast: Cliff Robertson, Ernest Borgnine, Henry Silva
I think it's happened to all of us one time or another.
That is, we
hear about a movie that sounds interesting for one reason or another,
we can't find it, no matter how much we look. Then we spend the next
years looking for it on and off. Eventually, we find the movie, sit
eagerly to watch it and.... it sucks. While I don't think that Shoot
completely worthless, it was not what I was looking for. It seemed so
it was a Canadian tax shelter movie (it got its funding from the J.
Getty Corporation, who wanted a tax dodge) and it had a cast consisting
of Cliff Robertson, Ernest Borgnine, and Henry Silva. The acclaimed Guide
For The Film Fanatic author Danny Perry lead me on to think it was
good, using adjectives in his review like "(potentially)
"disturbing", "frightening", and "terrifying" to describe it. I would
the words "boring" and "stupid" myself.
Where was I? Oh yes. The plot concerns Rex (Robertson),
an ex-vet now
businessman who is bored with his job and his wife. His only
seems to come from the weekend hunting trips he has with his
which include Lou (Borgnine) and Jake (Silva). One early Saturday
he picks them up for another outing, though on this particular day they
find it impossible to find anything to shoot. Near the end of the day,
tired and frustrated, they find themselves at a riverbank. At the same
time, another hunting party appears on the other side. Both sides
up at the sight of the other, and the well edited sequence builds a
deal of tension as the two sides simply look at each other. Then one of
the members of the other party snaps, and fires a shot at Rex's party,
grazing a member. Jake fires back, nailing the guy right between the
Yeah! That's how to do it, Silva! And the subsequent shoot-out between
the two sides is great as well, with bullets zipping around everywhere,
and director Hart bringing a sense of chaos and panic in the fighting.
Before this part of the movie things were okay, and it seemed with all
this firepower happening now, the rest of the movie would be shaping up
to be a barrel of laughs. Well, not quite.
Rex and his friends flee the scene after driving the
other party away.
After much discussion, they decide not to call the police, fearing they
might be considered in the wrong. However, feeling both threatened and
outraged by the incident, they start making plans to strike back,
additional men to come along with them. It's around the beginning of
of this that the movie starts to go wrong. First of all, it's because
mostly talk. Now, talk can be interesting, of course, but the talking
is mostly the same basic things over and over - the reluctant Lou keeps
asking his friends to stop and think, Rex clenches his jaw and keeps
they have to plan and strike back, and other keep stating that they
should have been there with Rex and his friends, or "I should have
my tommy gun!" This gets boring pretty quick, and it takes up much of
running time; proof that there isn't much of a story here. Though a few
things do happen, none of them really alter the situation or how the
think. At one point of the story, a dumb subplot starts, concerning the
frustrated wife one of Rex's friends coming to him for a job, but
becoming interested in him. This entire subplot has no purpose or
to anything happening later in the movie.
What there is of a story to be found here isn't
take a look at the characters of the hunters. They are portrayed as
loud, telling dirty jokes, making a lot of macho talk, and in one way
another not connected to women - Lou is divorced, Rex is estranged from
his wife, etc. They are all vets, and love their guns, even wanting to
shoot beer cans when they can't find an animal to shoot. Indeed, there
seems to be a heavy anti-gun message in this movie, with every gun
in the movie shown in the worst possible light. Still, especially with
Borgnine's Lou character, we sense that these guys are not completely
or crackers. And that's where the flaw in the story comes in. The
in the movie actively make plans to return to the area, bringing with
other guys, so they can kill the other hunting party. This was probably
made to show that gun owners are crazy, but I could not believe these
owners would have the will to actually do this. They like their guns,
they don't seem to be the kind of guys who would - or want to - stage a
homemade commando raid. There are attempts to hint to the audience and
the members that there may be a threat if they don't do something to
themselves, but this is so weak it's practically non-existent. Plus,
on earth do they convince a number of their buddies and coworkers to
up their guns and join them on a mission that could kill them,
since these people would have no quarrel with that other hunting party.
It makes no sense.
It's not a surprise that Canadian director Harvey Hart
is unable to
do anything in the middle of the movie, though he does maintain the
look and dark lighting for these indoor sequences that are also found
the surrounding outdoor sequences. The weather also keep changing
the movie (sometimes during a scene), though Hart might not have been
to reshoot or wait for a change in the weather. He does make the scenes
of the characters trudging through the winter forest look creepy and
and the little action there is in the movie is well done, full of
and that aforementioned chaos.
When it comes to the characters, however, Hart is once
and leaves the burden to the actors. Though Silva is third billed and
a guy right between the eyes, his character isn't that prominent; in
he almost disappears, because he's otherwise not given anything
to say or do. Robertson seems very uncomfortable onscreen, as if he
was given the sole responsibility to provide the movie's character
We never get an idea what drives his character, and Robertson's acting
is a bit too "nice" for such a character. The scene where he puts on
puts his hands in his pockets, and walks around the room where he and
friends are planning is unintentionally amusing, making him look and
like a third rate Douglas MacArthur impersonator. Surprisingly, the one
actor who actually manages to scrape up a decent performance and make
some kind of a character is Ernest Borgnine. He plays the more sane
of the group, constantly pleading with them to sit down and think
about whatever they are planning to do. It's clear that he knows what
going on is very wrong, though he is helpless when it comes to
his friends to do something else, even admitting that he isn't sure
should be done. So it's inevitable that he can't even stop himself from
getting sucked into the situation.
In conclusion, because his review was one of the main
reasons I was
seeking this movie, I would like to leave a short message for Mr.
should he be reading this: Nyah Nyah! No publisher would touch your Cult
Movie Directors manuscript! Ha Ha!
for availability on Amazon (VHS)
Check for availability of the original Douglas Fairbairn novel "Shoot"
See also: Baker County, U.S.A.,
The Road Hustlers, Trackdown