The Missouri Breaks review

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Arthur Penn's muddy (in every sense), 1976 Western was originally about as popular as a saddle smeared with horse shit, but it's picked up a certain cult following since its release. Whether it deserves it or not is another matter...

There's an undeniable thrill to the sight of cinema legends Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando sharing screen space, and Penn's tale of cattle rustlers and the harpoon-wielding killer hired to stop them does hit occasional highs. Best bit? A character hissing the unforgettable line: "You know what woke you up? You just had your throat cut."

But the things that made it difficult for '70s audiences to enjoy still irritate now. Nicholson's internalised performance jars with Brando's hammy vaudeville posing (the man changes his accent in every scene and, at one point, wears a dress and bonnet), while Penn goes all out to create an unsettling film that can mutate tone and feel at the drop of a Stetson. It may be admirable, but it sure makes the movie difficult to like.

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