December 2, 2019  (Web Review)

Bronco Billy

Warner, 116 min., PG, Blu-ray: $21.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Clint Eastwood’s gentle 1980 comedy about a ragged Wild West show that travels modern Midwest America could be considered a laconic contemporary version of a classic screwball comedy. Eastwood directs and stars as Billy, head of a gypsy troupe of dreamers and dropouts who have banded together as a makeshift family playing their tent show in small towns to increasingly smaller audiences. Sondra Locke is a haughty heiress–stranded in the middle of Idaho when her new husband runs off with her ID and money–who reluctantly agrees to play Billy’s assistant in his sharpshooting act in exchange for transportation. It is mutual loathing at first sight and of course those sparks are fanned into attraction as the cold society dame is slowly charmed by the warmth of the troupe and the integrity and optimism of Billy. Eastwood plays against his tough guy image as Billy, a shoe salesman and ex-con who recreated himself as a quick-draw cowboy in the Roy Rogers mold, and he sells the film by embracing the innocence and joy of the character who loves to act out a cowboy fantasy and perform for audiences. It’s corny in all the best ways, sweet and inclusive and appreciative of the troupe’s commitment to a show that is lovingly innocent and out of step with the modern world. Making its Blu-ray debut, the film also features Scatman Crothers, Bill McKinney, Sam Bottoms, and Eastwood regular Geoffrey Lewis. Recommended. (S. Axmaker)