Critic Reviews



Based on 10 critic reviews provided by
Brutal story-line which is about as close to an explicit allegory as the western has ever come.
What’s most notable is how Eastwood holds fast to the rebel spirit of the spaghetti Westerns and revisionist New Hollywood Westerns of the previous decade, but packages it in a film that’s slicker and more mainstream-friendly.
Clint Eastwood is the ultimate thinking man’s cinematic killing machine. High Plains Drifter is his spooky, dark, and vicious version of the Sergio Leone Man With No Name Spaghetti Westerns he once starred in, and a moody existential meditation on gunplay, revenge and karma. Payback!
A gothic horror story and revenge thriller, it’s one of the darkest Westerns going. As much a ghost story as anything else, it stars Eastwood as a gunslinging cowboy paid handsomely to protect an idyllic Californian mining town from bandits.
Full of delirious color symbolism and macho cruelties, but not without its humor as well. The story is pure dime-store allegory, but the director/star knows his western cliches and uses them like a master.
High Plains Drifter is a morality tale carved out of the harsh Western desert and directed with a panache that synthesized the styles of Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, two directors who had worked with Eastwood frequently. The result is one of the best Westerns of the 1970s.
Part ghost story, part revenge Western, more than a little silly, and often quite entertaining in a way that may make you wonder if you have lost your good sense. The violence of the film (including a couple of murders by bull-whipping) is continual and explicit. It exalts and delights in a kind of pitiless Old Testament wrath.
Time Out
There's a boldness, confident stylisation, and genuine weirdness to the movie that totally escaped other post-spaghetti American Westerns, with a real sense of exorcism running both through and beyond it.
High Plains Drifter is a nervously-humorous, self-conscious near satire on the prototype Clint Eastwood formula of the avenging mysterious stranger. Script has some raw violence for the kinks and some dumb humor for audience relief. Eastwood’s second directorial effort is mechanically stylish.
As a director, Eastwood is not as good as he seems to think he is. As an actor, he is probably better than he allows himself to be. Meanwhile, the best you can say for High Plains Drifter is that the title is a low pun. Rarely are humble westerns permitted to drift around on such a highfalutin plane. That, however, is small comfort as this cold, gory and overthought movie unfolds.

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