"Choosing a way to die, what's the difference? Choosing a way to live, that's the hard part."
The Naked Spur pits a handful of characters in a tight psychological space, amid the great open spaces of the American West.
The main plot involves Howard Kemp intent on turning in murderer Ben Vandergroat. Kemp is joined by the old gold prospector Tate and discharged veteran Roy. Then when Vandergroat is captured, they find him with Lina, daughter of his now dead partner. Together, they make for an interesting travelling party as they take Vandergroat in for the reward money.
There's some gunplay with some natives over "morally unstable" (per his discharge papers) Roy's previous dalliances with a native maiden. This is one impetus to keep moving forward. It also puts a bullet in Kemp's leg, further intensifying the journey.
James Stewart plays Kemp tough and gritty, but he's not altogether a bastard. He falls somewhere between Tate, as his wavering conscience, and Roy, as his baser greed. Likewise, Lina is Vandergroat's conscience. Of course, nobody really listens to each other here. As a character study, it's a little stiff. As an adventure story, there's not enough happening. The Naked Spur is a lot like its title, vague and limited. There's a good start to a story here, but it needed a little more work before putting it on the screen.
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