- Directed by Henry Hathaway
- June 10, 1966
A young man hunting his family’s killers starts to find himself becoming just like them.
Nevada Smith is a 1966 western starring Steve McQueen as the titular character. This is a film that draws in inspiration for a previous movie called The Carpetbaggers where the Smith character was played Alan Ladd, but from what I understand the plot of this film has nothing to do with the plot of that film.
The movie feels like five smaller stories wanting to be one film. It’s almost as if somebody took several episodes of a television series and edited them down into something that could roughly form a single narrative. It would not be the first time such a thing occurred however that is not the case here.
The first story is the set up for the other four. The villains who kill Nevada Smith’s (real name Max Sand) family are introduced. Then Nevada Smith meets his Obi-Wan Kenobi who teaches him how to handle a weapon and schools him in the ways of the world. And then the final three film’s stories are Smith’s hunting of the men.
Each one is a story unto itself and each one has its own set of characters which unfortunately leads to a lack of character development. As a bit of a prequel film, you don’t even get too much development of the Jonas Cord (Brian Keith) character either.
In the beginning McQueen tries to play Smith (a teenager!) as a bit naïve and innocent and he comes off just as a bit dumb. McQueen does not really hit his stride with the character until the portion with the third man though there are some good moments with Brian Keith’s character of Cord.
There is no real build up to the name change. It just kind of is. He plucks the titular name out of thin air, and it is no more significant of a moment to the story than what color shirt he is wearing in a particular scene.
What saves this film is Steve McQueen. Despite the weakness of the beginning stories of the film, McQueen is great to watch as Nevada Smith becomes more creative in how he finds and exacts his revenge on the men that killed his family.
Henry Hathaway was a good director and he turned in something that while not great is entertaining enough and watchable. What would have kind of improved this film would have been a stronger connection between each narrative. Truth be told you could turn off the movie after one of the segments and started up again hours later and not lose anything in terms of enjoyment or investment.
There is good action in an okay story. Nothing is too thrilling though as each scene is a cap to the story of that segment. If the film as a whole built to a finale for a single narrative it would be different. I think with a little more connection between the segments it would have been a much better film.
Nevada Smith is not bad, but it could have been better. I suggest this movie for Western fans but for the general film fan I will call this an if you want.