Marlon Brando's 'One-Eyed Jacks': One of the greatest Westerns ever made

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

One-Eyed Jacks, Marlon Brando

Before Clint Eastwood, there was Sam Peckinpah. Before Peckinpah, there was Sergio Leone. But before Leone there was Marlon Brando and One-Eyed Jacks. It is impossible to think of Unforgiven, The Wild Bunch, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, or even The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance without One-Eyed Jacks. Here is a film which Peckinpah couldn't realize and Kubrick abandoned. And, perhaps, it was Brando's destiny to produce, direct and act in it. The result was a commercial disaster. It was also in many ways the end of a remarkable phase in Brando's acting career. For anyone interested in studying his stellar career, it is important to divide it in two phases i.e. career before and career after One-Eyed Jacks

After the failure of the film, Brando ceased to be the actor he once was. The fascination for cinematic art got replaced by cynicism and although he would go on to deliver unforgettable performances in movies like The Godfather, Last Tango in Paris, and Queimada, his charming innocent side would permanently be lost. 
One-Eyed Jacks, Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando on the sets of One-Eyed Jacks

In order to truly appreciate the complexity of One-Eyed Jacks one will probably have to watch at least a dozen other Westerns. Here is a film that marks a departure from the norms established by the Classic Westerns of John Ford and Howard Hawks. The characters here aren't necessarily good or bad and perhaps that's what makes them more relatable. Take the case of Brando's Rio who is arguably one of the genre's foremost anti-heroes. He isn't beyond cheating women or shooting his adversary in his back and yet he has certain heroic qualities. He is willing to take the bullet for his partner. Similarly, Dad Longworth isn't all evil. He has his own share of virtues unlike the Classic Western villains.
One-Eyed Jacks, Marlon Brando and Karl Malden, Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) teaches Rio (Marlon Brando) a lesson
Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) teaches Rio (Marlon Brando) a lesson 

On a whole, One-Eyed Jacks is one of the greatest Westerns ever made. The performances are absolutely topnotch: be it Brando, Karl Malden, Ben Johnson, Katy Jurado, or even Slim Pickens. Groundbreaking and far ahead of its time, One-Eyed Jacks is a testament to Brando's commitment to the cinematic art form before he suffered from a disillusionment of sorts. Thanks to the brilliant restoration supervised by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, One-Eyed Jacks looks just as refreshing today as it would have looked in the good old days of VistaVision. If you are a Western fan or appreciate good cinema, here is a film that you just cannot afford to miss.

Rating: 9/10

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Martin Scorsese on One-Eyed Jacks (YouTube)

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