The Shootist (1976) Review

J.B Brooks (Wayne) a dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity.

This film was the last ever film made by John Wayne, which makes it even more poignant. He was really dying with cancer whilst filming and it is really difficult to tell what is acting and what is real. So many emotions are shown in this film, it is hard not to feel sorry for him.

The opening scene with Wayne and another screen legend, James Stewart as the doctor telling him of his fate was a great start to such a brilliant moving film. J. B. Books stays with landlady Bond Rogers (Bacall) and her son Gillom (Howard) who both grow to love him in different ways. Gillom already idolized Books from his reputation as a shootist.

It really is such a brilliant story to how Books wants to go out on a high and have one last shoot out before it is too late. He lives up to his reputation that one last night and shows that you don’t ever lose the ability no matter how weak you may become with illness. It all goes parallel to what John Wayne would have been going through, he would have known that he would not have a chance to make any more movies. So he was going out with a bang as well, excuse the pun!

I found Ron Howard to put in a very good performance, yes I have always just thought of him as a director and never seen him act in anything until watching this film! In all honesty never even realised that he started out as an actor. Yes shocking I know, but that has been put right now. I thought he was brilliant in terms of how a young man would be going on and wanting to break free from his mother and family home. Lauren Bacall was a very good match for Wayne in terms of being able to hold her own against him and not allowing his character to walk all over her.

This really is such an emotional film and often regarded as one of Wayne’s best performances. But I guess that was because it did not require him to act very much, which is so sad. Definitely something I could watch again, so brilliant from beginning to end.

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