Cosby's Cruel World

What people will find most interesting about this is Bill Cosby. He plays an illiterate former soldier in the late 19th century homsteading in Arizona with his expectant wife and kid.

What I find most interesting about this film is its title. It has an alternate name of "Ride a Dark Horse", which is actually pretty bland too, but at least gives a sense of something other than a still life painting. Sure, when this man and his boy take off to chase a horse thief, it's pretty much those two for the rest of the flick. Yet such an unimaginative title isn't deserved by this movie.

The thing is - even though we're most of the time watching one or both of this Man and Boy, it's not really about them. If it were, we'd see some conclusions in the story about their relationship. What it's really about is race relations. Cosby may be cast against type (at least from the perspective of seeing his whole career), but it's no coincidence there's a black man in this role. Racism may have had some bad turns in the 20th century, but that was nothing new. Life in the west for black people is approached from several angles. Aside from Cosby, we come across a ranch hand (Yaphet Kotto), as well as a notorious criminal by the name of Lee Christmas.

Christmas turns out to be their horse thief, but the pair aren't in the best position to deal with him when he shows up. This criminal ends up kidnapping the Son as an assurance he can get across the border safely. Cosby falls into even more trouble when he tries to find a way back to his son.

The end of the film is a standoff, leading to a shootout killing off everybody the filmmakers can get away with. For such a common sort of climax, some of the details are better than average, though it's not that tremendous.

It's a small film that knows what it's about, but doesn't follow its themes so strongly it goes off track. The real question to ask here would be: is it interesting? It's somewhere in the middle. The style is well defined, it progresses at a slow but sure pace, more like a series of incidents than a straight plot. Those looking for action will be turned off. If not for some of the violence (yes, the Coz hurts people, and not just because he's threatened), this is about the right speed for a better than average afterschool special... perhaps that's going to prejudice folks - what I mean is that turning this on in the background in the afternoon is about right. You'll certainly get drawn in for the important parts.

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