Plot Synopsis from AMG
Playing police stooge Ben Shockley, Clint Eastwood sends up his Dirty Harry-ness in this 1977 cop film-action movie-romantic comedy. Ben is assigned to escort tough Vegas hooker Gus Mally (Sondra Locke) to Phoenix for a Mob trial because, he thinks, he always "gets the job done." But corrupt commissioner Blakelock (William Prince) chose alcoholic Ben precisely because Ben does not get much done at all, and Blakelock has no intention of letting them get to Phoenix alive. Once Gus figures this out and makes Ben see the truth, Ben resolves to prove Blakelock wrong, even if it means surviving car bombs, a house shot to pieces, a helicopter-motorcycle chase, and finally driving an armored bus through a gauntlet formed by scores of shooting cops. Amidst the mayhem, Ben falls in love with the smart-mouthed, college-educated Gus, and she insists on riding out the gauntlet with her Ben. An obedient cop who is not as clever as his female charge, Ben Shockley is the opposite of Eastwood's ultra-capable loner Harry Callahan from the Dirty Harry series, allowing Eastwood to poke fun at his image even as Shockley eventually does get the job done. While the exaggerated action set pieces also parody the Eastwood cop hero's usual invincibility, their efficient, energetic staging still makes them effective; The Gauntlet was another popular success for Eastwood as director as well as star.
Review from AMG
In addition to working well as an Eastwood actioner, The Gauntlet should probably serve as ground zero for any study of his films' attitude toward women. Eastwood's hard-living, success-starved cop begins the film as an unrepentant sexist, but after being saddled with an antagonist/love interest Sondra Locke, who more than holds her own against him, he leaves the film with an adjusted attitude. That Locke plays a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails, world-weary prostitute only makes his progress that much more curious. It's these sort of difficult to disentangle, seemingly contradictory politics that make even Eastwood's least ambitious films -- of which Gauntlet is certainly one -- rewarding viewing. This attitude toward women in particular has caused him to be reviled as a sexist and lauded as a feminist; whichever way you choose to look at it, The Gauntlet makes for gripping, if familiar, viewing. Eastwood's character's gutter integrity may be imported from the Dirty Harry series, but his deliberately paced direction -- in addition to matching the open spaces of his Southwestern setting -- allows him to explore the details of the persona to a greater extent in a film that's as interesting as much for what's in its margins as for what happens in center stage.
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