This movie spends the first half hour in a bar without Destry (James Stewart). We don’t meet him until after this scene. I get the feeling that at the time, people wanted to see stuff like this, see a slice of life or a night in a tavern during cowboy times. What it sets up, it does so entirely in the last five minutes of this section and you could easily cut the first 25 minutes and it would have been fine. Though this section does have some interesting bits, a few songs but this was back when if you made a movie you damn better stick a song or two in it. There’s people playing backroom poker, as everyone gets drunk and there’s more than a few humorous scenes, but as for story, the plot is at a dead standstill until practically this scene is over.
Okay, outside of that, this movie is very well acted and it’s nice to see that comedy-westerns went back just as far as normal westerns did. I do appreciate that it’s not just slapstick and whatnot and remains in the real world with maybe a few somewhat over-the-top characters. Also it has one of the most realistic “cat fights” I’ve ever seen in a film. I suppose this movie isn’t very heavy on plot overall, really, more just a slice-of-life in a Old West town. When Destry shows up and starts turning the town around for the good of the people and all that stuff, it kind of makes me think of a really toned down version of Grand Theft Auto as it feels kind of like he’s going around completing missions that change things for the better and I am looking forward to Rockstar’s adaptation of this movie, Red Dead Redemption 2! Okay, not a direct adaptation, but something tells me that if this movie didn’t exist neither would many of the western tropes we all know and love.
Okay, I’ve decided the first act is okay, only because this whole movie is very light on plot (until almost the end) and you could almost call it a character piece, and the first act does do a good job of setting up most of the characters (Destry, as I’ve mentioned, comes in later). And what eventually becomes the plot, a How-Catch-’em Mystery after the murder of the previous sheriff. And then Destry comes in and steals the show as he solves it, essentially the Columbo of this film. He’s a true hero by the end of the movie.
Why you should watch it before you die: This western is both very cliche of westerns but also does things that I’ve never seen in any other western and uses comedy and mystery and combines these genres very effectively.
+7.5: Very good Red Dead Redemption prequel
-1: The first act, though forgivable, still takes a while to find a point
+1: Good acting throughout
+1: Very good melding of multiple genres