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MICHAEL WINNER & CHARLES BRONSON BEGIN W/ 'CHATO'S LAND'

The first of Six Bronson Winner Films YEAR: 1972
The first act of CHATO'S LAND should have an alternative title, since we don't experience his land, along with his wrath, till much, much later on...

Perhaps THE MOSSY POSSE would have fit being that Jack Palance, as brooding ex-Confederate Capt. Quincey Whitmore, progressively gathers up a gang to head after Charles Bronson as Pardon Chato, who, in the film's gun-blasting prelude, kills a white man and is "gonna hang for it!" But that's only after he gets caught... when he gets caught or more like, IF he's caught at all. Which isn't likely, not just judging by his prowess, but their obvious incompetence...

Palance and Jordan
Chato knows his land and, like John J. Rambo a decade later, or even MR. MAJESTYK in two years, is playing cat/mouse with the inferior antagonists, but it's really like two separate movies in one...

The angry white man posse talks about Chato and how terrible Indians are in general, and we get to know some of the fellas better than others, especially Richard Jordan as a feisty, troubled , sexed-up white trash kid and Simon Oakland as the polar opposite... and yet he and several others hate Indians more than the mellow Palance, never losing his cool and playing a philosophical waiting game... And he waits, and waits...

Bronson talks with Indian
Problem is, so do we... Way too long while never quite "walking a mile in the moccasins" of our title hero... Other than a few sneaky tricks, like splitting water bottles and stealing horses, the posse take up more screen time than Bronson, who, knocked by politically-correct types for a white man playing a minority ala Charlie Chan, actually does look part Mexican or Eskimo to begin with...

Score: **1/2
So it's not a stretch he's supposedly half Apache and, looks aside his performance is cool, smooth and subtle while that same year's THE MECHANIC director Michael Winner, who'd follow up with Charles in STONE KILLER and the Bronson/Winner game-changing champion, DEATH WISH, wields his camera in an always flowing fashion without distracting the story, making every particular motion more creative than a widescreen/landscape John Ford type. But there's not too many shots of Bronson other than a scanned view from a hilltop where his future doomed herd are gathered below...

And those are the guys that matter, only there's a point when this Anti-Western Action flick could have actually used some Action and a little Body Count along the way, earlier on, to see more what Chato's made of other than being Charles Bronson. Despite a few good scenes toward the end, the hunted and the hunter, and then the hunter doing the hunting, are too separate from each other to matter... or seem connected... as a whole.
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