Chato’s Land, directed by Bronson’s Death Wish 1 – 3 helmer, Michael Winner, turned out to be more interesting than I had originally expected. From the descriptions I had read, it seemed to be about a half-breed Apache named Pardon Chato (Charles Bronson) who killed an asshole town sheriff in self-defense and then escaped only to be hunted through the desert by a posse, thrown together when word of the killing got out. There’s a lot more going on in this story, though.
One of the first things I noticed is that Bronson’s character doesn’t even get the majority of the screen time here. He only speaks a few lines of dialogue in English, with the rest being in Apache (no subtitles either). Most of the scenes and dialogue belong to the gang that’s after him; lead by Quincy Whitmore (Jack Palance), a former Captain in the Confederate Army. At first I thought this character was going to be a slightly psychotic killer-type with delusions of the Civil War still raging on, which I deduced when he pulled out his old military uniform immediately after being informed of the situation. It could’ve also been because he was played by Jack Palance, but who knows. In truth though, he is the most level-headed of the bunch, and seems to be leading the mission in order to regain some of his pride lost after the Union’s victory of the war. He is a bit of a sad character, but intelligent and noble. You can clearly see his disgust towards some of the other members of the posse as the film goes on. His men are a motley crew of cowboys, some looking to avenge a death, others wanting to quench their thirst for bloodshed.
As the films goes on, we see the deterioration of these characters caused by such an arduous journey through some seriously rough territory; “The Badlands” as they call it. We get glimpses as to the evil that men can do when pushed too far by the elements as well as their supposed prey. I say “supposed” because let’s face it; their hunting Charles Bronson, as a half Apache, expert survivalist, and total all-around badass. He constantly gets the upper hand on them; setting false trails, draining their already-dwindling water supply, and taking shots at them in the middle of the night, just so they know he’s still around. Things are going pretty well for him until the posse comes upon his home and attack it in a way that won’t surprise you if you’re familiar with some of the other Bronson/Winner pictures. Needless to say that after this, Chato is done fucking around with these men and things get real serious. You can tell because he ditches his normal white-man clothes in favor of a loin cloth and head band; the uniform of a serious man.
Chuck = RippedThe final section of the movie reminded me of a more methodically paced version of when Stallone goes hunting for evil Vietnamese soldiers after they kill his woman in Rambo: First Blood Part II. Except this is all made more interesting here by the fact that it is done over a longer period of time, as the men are continuing to turn on each other while also being picked off one by one. I found it interesting that as their stress levels escalate through the film, you start to realize that maybe the guys you didn’t think were so bad in the beginning, are really the worst of all when pushed to the limit.
"Don't make fun of my headband"
I’d definitely recommend this to fans of Bronson, as well as any fans of the Western genre. It’s not the all-out action fest like some of the other films I’ve covered in this blog, but it’s definitely a lot more interesting. There’s a lot of good noble/deep cowboy talk in this thing as well, which I always love to hear. So in closing, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite bits of dialogue from Palance’s character to his men when talking about their surroundings, their adversary, and their situation in general.
“To you this is so much bad land - rock, scrub, desert, and then more rock. A hard land that the sun has sucked all the good out of. You can't farm it and you can't carve it out and call it your own... so you damn it to hell and it all looks the same. That's our way. To The Breed (Chato), now, it's his land. He don't expect it to give him much and he don't force it none. And to him, it's almost human - a living thing. And it will give him a good place to make his fight against us.”
Body Count - 12