The Gauntlet (1977)

74% – Critics
54% – Audience

The Gauntlet Storyline

In Phoenix, Arizona, alcoholic and mediocre Detective Ben Shockley (Clint Eastwood) is assigned by Chief Commissioner Blakelock (William Prince) to bring witness Gus Mally (Sondra Locke) from Las Vegas, Nevada for a minor trial. Shockley travels to Las Vegas and finds that Gus Mally is an aggressive and intelligent prostitute with a college degree and she tells him that the odds are against her showing up in court. Shockley learns that she will actually testify against a powerful mobster, and the mafia is chasing them, trying to kill them both. He calls Blakelock and requests a Police escort from Phoenix to protect them. But soon, he discovers that someone is betraying him in the Police Department. Now, Shockley and Malley hijack a bus and Shockley welds thick steel plates and transforms the cabin in an armored bus trying to reach the Forum. But they will need to drive through a gauntlet of Police Officers armed with heavy weapons.

The Gauntlet Play trailer

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The Gauntlet Movie Reviews

It’s Ben Shockley…not Harry Callahan!

“The Gauntlet” is an action film that works best if you don’t expect very much from it. It’s not a Dirty Harry film nor does the film make a lot of sense…especially at the very end. Nevertheless, for Clint Eastwood fans it probably packs enough in it to make them happy…all others consider twice before watching.

Eastwood had just finished making his third Dirty Harry film when he then made “The Gauntlet”. I am sure many expected to see the self- confident and murderous officer Callahan once again, but his Ben Shockley in “The Gauntlet” is in many ways very much unlike Callahan. He’s a drunk, a lousy cop and someone no one would expect much from…hence this is why he was chosen for a special assignment. The Police Commissioner (William Prince) wants Shockley to go to Vegas to bring in a prisoner who is expected to testify in a mob case. However, it soon becomes obvious no one wants him to bring the girl (Sondra Locke) back alive…and the Vegas and Phoenix police forces are itching to kill them both.

So why do I only give this one a 5? Well, the film is pretty much mindless action much of the time, but the reason for this relatively low score for a Clint Eastwood film is the ending…an ending which seems incredibly fake and silly. All semblance to reality seems to vanish and the ending is basically intended to satisfy the primal, not the intellectual. Pretty silly ending…as is the bizarro romance.

“I’ve Got The Gun, Clyde”

The Gauntlet is the second of six films that Clint Eastwood did with Sondra Locke, an amount that certainly qualifies them as a screen team of note. They were for 15 years a team off the screen as well.

The Gauntlet casts Locke as a hooker who is being subpoenaed as a witness in an organized crime case. She’s in Las Vegas where if you’ll recall prostitution is legal and apparently she’s learned some interesting information. More interesting than she realizes because there are some people who want to make very certain she does not reach Phoenix where the Maricopa County District Attorney has her for a witness.

Assigned to the case is Clint Eastwood who is characterized by himself as a tired old time server of a cop. He’s not by reputation with the Phoenix, PD a Harry Callahan. But to the regret of forces who want to see Locke dead and consider him an incompetent and expendable, Clint fools them all.

As a film The Gauntlet goes at a good clip and the suspense from the first attack against Eastwood and Locke does not let up for a second. The dialog between Eastwood and Locke is crisp and entertaining and the action sequences well staged. The two leads get good support from Pat Hingle as Eastwood’s luckless partner and William Prince the corrupt Chief of the Phoenix PD.

I’m not sure whether Prince wants Locke dead for her testimony linking him to organized crime or for the fact she can testify to some alternate sexual practices he favors. Either way Prince is absolutely manic about making sure they never get to Phoenix alive.

For fans of Clint Eastwood, The Gauntlet is one of his best films, one of my favorites of his, and something not to be missed.

Where bullets fly and believability goes out the window

A generic action film with Clint Eastwood, featuring more action and less plotting than most of his other cop films from this era. The story, which involves Eastwood’s cop and a star witness going on the run from both the police and the mob, seems to have inspired countless other action films from the ’70s and ’80s, but I didn’t find it anything special about it. Instead the film seems to focus and revel in superficial, larger than life stunts and set-pieces while forgetting to give us much heart at its core. Hell, even Stallone’s COBRA had more of a plot than this!

Still, the movie isn’t all bad and I found it difficult to really dislike. Eastwood and his love interest Sondra Locke were together in real life, so their chemistry is for real. The laughs, mostly stemming from Eastwood’s deadpan humour and the bizarre situations in which he finds himself, are solid, and there are good supporting turns from actors including Pat Hingle and ex-peplum star Dan Vadis as a biker. The action scenes are impressive, although there’s an overwhelming feel of macho overkill in scenes in which a house and bus are absolutely destroyed by hundreds of rounds. I would have preferred a more suspenseful and realistic feel to these sequences, but this is far from Eastwood’s best as director.

The lengthy motorbike-chased-by-helicopter sequence, for instance, requires an absolutely massive suspension of disbelief and has a too-obvious outcome on top of that. I’ve made THE GAUNTLET sound like a bad film, and it isn’t, not really; the climax, for instance, is highly memorable and sets a new precedent in over-the-top showdowns. It’s just that I’ve come to expect so much from Eastwood as both actor and director, and this light-hearted vehicle doesn’t come close to the quality of the DIRTY HARRY films.