Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
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Overall Rating 64%
Overall Rating
Ranked #5,274
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J.D. Cahill is the toughest U.S. Marshal they've got, just the sound of his name makes bad guys stop in their tracks, so when his two young boys want to get his attention they decide to rob a bank. They end up getting more than they bargained for. --TMDb
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: April 24, 2007
One of John Wayne's final films, "Cahill U.S. Marshal" is also one of his most obscure. It came during that period of time when Wayne was only accepting 'clean' roles -- films that appealed to broad audiences and didn't stand a chance of offending anyone. This was post-"The Searchers" and post-"True Grit". Some might even go so far as to say that "Cahill U.S. Marshal" is a family film, in that it deals with familial relations and the love that a father has for his sons, and vice versa. It's not one of Wayne's best films, and it could have been tackled in a better way, but it does show as one of the great masters of cinema showing a different kind of range as an actor. Rarely do we get to see Wayne show these kinds of emotions. Usually it's just revenge or justice he is playing.

John Wayne stars as J.D. Cahill, a marshal who rarely gets to spend time with his two sons, Danny (Gary Grimes) and Billy Joe (Clay O'Brien). In order to get even with their father, Danny and Billy Joe join up with a gang, led by the murderous Abe Fraser (George Kennedy), and decide to help them rob the town bank, under the guise that no one will get hurt. Alas, people do get hurt. The town sheriff and deputy are killed. Eventually, the wrong outlaws are convicted to die, even further complicating matters. Danny and Billy Joe must find a way to get the money to Abe Fraser, before he decides they know to much and takes them out. Slowly, Cahill begins noticing his son's suspicious behaviors and starts to piece things together. Neville Brand co-stars as Lightfoot, a half-Comanche who assists Cahill is just about everything he does.

What makes Cahill work is the sure fire formula of John Wayne on the hunt for the bad guys. No one ever did it as well as John Wayne did, and no one ever will. You believe every word he says. If he says he is going to kill you, the odds are overwhelming that you will be killed. If he says he is going to find you, you're as good as found. Here, his character is aging, not at the top of his game, and also hindered by the fact that his two sons are the ones that would be considered the bad guys. John Wayne plays a host of emotions here -- all of them different from what he's used to playing, but still not nearly as substantial as they should be, especially for the subject matter involved. "Cahill U.S. Marshal" is a family film with too much violence to be family film.

Another aspect of a John Wayne film that has to be considerable in order for the film to work is the placement of the villain. One of the great villains finds himself in this film -- George Kennedy as Abe Fraser. This was one of Kennedy's early films and it showcases his energy and his zeal for each and every role he takes. Kennedy is perfectly cast here as a murderous thief who will do anything it takes to get his money, even if it means killing multiple people. He has no redeeming values, which is typical of most Wayne villains -- the less we like them, the more satisfying it is when John Wayne gets them, and the more we like him in return. "Cahill U.S. Marshal" is not one of John Wayne's great films, but I think it is a great film, on many levels. Time will be its ultimate judge, not me. At the least, it is definitely worth checking out. 7/10.
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