Orrin Konheim
9 min readNov 30, 2020

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Eight Great Shoot Outs in the History of the Movie Western

This article was originally written for another website and can be found on my Patreon (with additional examples). On my blog entry, you can see video clips: http://sophomorecritic.blogspot.com/2020/07/eight-great-shoot-outs-in-history-of.html

The Shootist (1976)-Going out on one last bang

The last Western John Wayne ever shot fittingly deals with the question of old age as his character, JB Books, deals with cancer.

On the last morning of his life, Books rides the trolley to a hotel where three outlaws are congregating. En route, he gifts the trolley driver with a keepsake and compliments a pretty girl. He then walks in to a hotel saloon with the dignity of a man who’s made peace with himself. Jump cuts with the three outlaws elevate the tension ever so slightly as Books slowly pours himself a drink. Books spots one of the men in the mirror and raises a glass to him.

Within 10 seconds, another of the outlaws grabs his gun and the fight is on. Books dives over the bar and takes refuge. He throws a bottle as a misdirect and gets him cold. His second foe gets a shot off and charges at him with a table which Books shoots through. He manages to get the best of the last gunman by playing dead and shooting him between the eyes as he peers over.

As Books gets back to his feet, he’s shot by the bartender as his protégé Gillum (Ron Howard) shouts in vain to warn him. Gillum, who’s been idolizing the gunslinger myth, shoots the bartender but learns the lesson firsthand of the lifestyle’s frivolity. Meanwhile, Books got the ending he always wished for: To go out with a bang.

3:10 to Yuma (2007)-Getting His Charge to the Train

By the 2000s, special effects were so dependent on computer-generated animation (or CGI) that the Oscar for Best Visual Effects went to “Golden Compass” for 2007 in a film that was pretty much entirely computer-matted. The highest-grossing non-sequel of that year, Transformers, was another testament to CGI excess.

That’s why it was all the more refreshing to have watched James Mangold’s remake that same year and see traditional gun fighting with real sets and props.

As the title explains, a small-time rancher, Dan Evans (Christian Bale), agrees to hold down outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and get him on a Yuma-bound train to collect the bounty. Like a mine field, he has to get his charge through a territory…

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Orrin Konheim

Freelance journalist w/professional bylines in 3 dozen publications, writing coach, google me. Patreon: http://www.patreon/com/okjournalist Twitter: okonh0wp