“One-Eyed Jacks” is based on the novel “The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones” by Charles Neider, and stars and is directed by (in his directorial debut and swansong all rolled into one) Marlon Brando (“The Godfather”). It is about a group of bank robbers headed up by Brando’s character, Rio, and opens with Rio and crew pulling off a robbery and then going on the lam, but with the law closing in and Rio’s gang dropping like flies, Rio is betrayed by his only surviving partner in crime, Dad Longworth (Karl Malden [“Patton”]), who seizes an opportunity to escape with the loot and leave Rio to take the fall. Years later, Rio escapes prison and seeks revenge, tracking down Dad, who is now sheriff of a small town, but along the way Rio gets distracted by Dad’s stepdaughter (Pina Pellicer [“Macario”]), seemingly forcing him to choose between vengeance and love, but as is often the case, it’s not so simple a choice as one or the other.
I’ve never been a big fan of the plot device wherein an opponent is allowed to live when they’re clearly beaten and ripe for the picking, and if let go WILL MOST CERTAINLY JUST GO REGROUP AND COME BACK TO BITE THE “MERCIFUL” SOUL ON THE BUTT LATER, but some of my favorite films have employed it (“Batman Begins”, “Kill Bill: Vol. 1″ and “Vol. 2″) and under the right circumstances it can workout surprisingly well. However, I didn’t feel it worked that well for “One-Eyed Jacks”, but the fact that it wasn’t that egregious of an error and was ultimately offset by the solid performances turned in by the entire cast, most notably Mr. Brando (no surprise that), makes it a small qualm in my eyes. One other criticism I have for the film, though, is that the ending’s a touch anticlimactic, but what it lacks in punch it more than makes up for in suspense, as I could never guess who would come out on top and who would end up six feet under. Overall, I’d have to say, “Jacks” is a very well made film, and definitely a must-see for any western enthusiast.