When his cattle drivers abandon him for the gold fields, rancher Wil Andersen(John Wayne) is forced to take on a collection of young boys as his drivers in order to get his herd to market in time to avoid financial disaster. The boys learn to do a man's job under Andersen's tutelage, however, neither Andersen nor the boys know that a gang of cattle thieves is stalking them.
I remember this being my favorite western as a kid. Why? Because it's the perfect children's adventure story but still wearing adult clothes. Boys being cowBOYS. Boys becoming men. "Now this is the way it's gonna be: I'm a man and you're boys. Not cowmen, not by a damn sight, nothing but cowboys just like the word says. And I'm gonna remind you of it every single minute of every day and night."
Every boy at one time or another has wanted to ride across the open range, sleep on the ground, have a horse as a best friend, and of course carry a six shooter. This movie is that dream.
The Cowboys is about an old man teaching boys to become men. But don't get me wrong. This may be a movie about growing up but its still a hard nosed gritty western with all your violence, murder, spit'n and cuss'n.
John Wayne does an amazing job as on old stiff necked ranch hand. The boys are perfectly cast and do an amazing job convincing me they are real(I'm a real boy!) Mr. Nighlinger the salty negro cook who plays the perfect support that Wayne needs along the trail.
Last but not least Bruce Dern plays the role of Asa the evil cow thief and he does so perfectly. With his hands talking as much as his mouth, the brim of his hat pinned up, and a crooked almost friendly smile.
I was surprised at how much I still loved this movie 15 years later. The things that stick out to me the most are the amazing one liners. Here are a few.
Slap some bacon on a biscuit and let's go! We're burnin' daylight!Jebediah Nightlinger:
[praying to God before he's about to hanged by Asa Watts and his gang] I regret trifling with married women. I'm thoroughly ashamed at cheating at cards. I deplore my occasional departures from the truth. Forgive me for taking your name in vain, my Saturday drunkenness, my Sunday sloth. Above all, forgive me for the men I've killed in anger
[eyes shifting to Asa Watts]Jebediah Nightlinger:
... and those I am about to.Wil Andersen:
Sometimes it's hard to understand the drift of things. This was a good boy. He'd have been a good man. He didn't get his chance. Death can come for ya any place, any time. It's never welcomed. But if you've done all you can do, and it's your best, in a way I guess you're ready for it.
A classic western hidden among the blanket of boring stereotypes and cliches that people assume about the genre. But once you pull back the covers and slip the disc into your player, I promise it will be love at first site. One of my favorites.