Review: The Cowboys (1972)


Darn kids, you’re not old enough to drink, but you are old enough to kill!

Screenplay By: Harriet Frank Jr., William Dale Jennings & Irving Ravetch
Directed By: Mark Rydell

I’m sure some people were upset by the ending of The Cowboys, they got all in a tizzy about the violence perpetuated by the kids. I really didn’t care that the movie finished with a pro-revenge spin. I believe that we should turn the other cheek, but I have been known to want to dish out an ass whooping every now and then. It’s not an issue that matters to me, if you take things in stride and let them go that’s cool, but if you don’t and you decide revenge is the way to go, then whatever, I’m okay with either approach. Anyone who got upset over the ending of The Cowboys must have forgotten what movie they were watching.

The Cowboys is a fun Western, that’s all it is. It’s a different spin on the genre, at least to me. It uses the kids in fun and original ways, but it’s still a Western that operates under the guise of a standard Western. Revenge is a motif of the Western and a film that is all about a group of kids growing into the men of the West ending in revenge fueled violence shouldn’t throw anyone for a loop. What should possibly throw some people for a loop is the fact that John Wayne’s character of Wil Anderson bites the dust. It’s incredibly rare that Wayne dies in his films, and while he is given a far too sentimental passing, the fact that he dies adds to the interesting nature of The Cowboys.

There are issues of obviousness in the story and moments where one can’t help but laugh at the cheesy heavy handedness. But, The Cowboys is a fun Western, and that’s really all it sets out to be. This is one of the final Westerns of John Wayne, and while it’s not on the level of his great Westerns, it’s an interesting premise that holds the viewers attention throughout. You can do worse than watching The Cowboys, for instance you could watch MASH and want to throw up, but maybe that’s just me.




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