Considered to be an example of the acid western sub-genre, The Shooting gets off to a good start with its relatively simple premise. A woman asks two miners to escort her to an unknown destination, her elusive nature the catalyst for the series of events that transpire throughout this somewhat forgotten western. The Shooting relies heavily on what thrills and discomfort it can bring in its relatively short running time. Director Monte Hellman never relents in trying to bring us an experience that blends tropes of the typical western action flick with heavier story material, moments that both performer and audience can muse on as being more than a typical presentation of the genre.
With direction that holds within it some very grandiose scenes, it’s a shame that The Shooting is ultimately futile. Its barren wastelands and lack of visual checkpoints and markers make for a very interesting setting, one in which the group of characters feel small, timid, and ultimately lost in the large, empty plains. Some of the components found within the film’s final moments are a true visual marvel, but one that comes too little, too late. Relying on performance alone to fill the void our characters find themselves in is always a gamble, and in the case of The Shooting, it doesn’t quite pull that off.
Leading men Warren Oates and Will Hutchinson are solid enough, their performances do hold within them some quality, but it’s scattered throughout without any real care. They struggle to bring out the best in their performances, of two miners slowly growing cautious and afraid of their newfound companion. Scattered appreciation is the best I can muster for the cast, who do hold within them some real talent, yet not enough to pull together a script that feels rather minimal and oddly disconnected from the performances on hand. Not much happens, and the artistic nature of the film is nowhere close to entertaining or interesting enough to pool together more artistic or engaging moments.
Reminding me of Easy Rider, and not just because both films include Jack Nicholson in a supporting capacity, The Shooting musters up the exact tropes and moments I both love and hate about acid-oriented films. That longing desire to be free can be found in pockets throughout The Shooting, but subverts them for more conventional western tropes. Instead, we get a somewhat inarticulate piece that never quite knows what it wants to do with its leading characters. We go off on an adventure with them, but the destination is neither in sight nor of any real relevance to the characters. Performances that are, for the most part, solid enough, but never close to the high expectations we should hold for westerns. It’s a film whose themes are at variance with one another, and it causes some clunky problems throughout.