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THE OTHER GREAT JESSE JAMES FILM, October 22, 2007

Great Northfield Minnesota Raid VHS
Philip Kaufman's version of the last days of the Younger Brothers was made a bit before Walter Hill's "The Long Riders," and it suffers from being hyped as a serious action film when it is, in fact, a black comedy. Robert Duvall's Jesse James is so deliciously over-the-top in his self-righteousness and his faux-piety that he tends to obscure Cliff Robertson's turn as the bemused rationalist Cole Younger who finds too much of life "a wonderment," while Jesse just shoots at it and runs.If Hill's film is about family and ties of blood, Kaufman's film is about greed and double-dealing raised to an art form. Everyone, except pious, mad Jesse is for sale in Kaufman's world. The Missouri state legislature can be bribed by the railroad to cancel an amnesty bill. Cole Younger plots with a venal banker to con the "good people" of Northfield, Minnesota out of their savings, then plans to rob the banker. The citizens of Northfield think nothing of cheating like mad to defeat a visiting...

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"The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" is one of the best crafted and excellently acted films you will ever see. It is such a shame that this truly great film is so little known. This, basically, is the original "telling" of the "Long Riders" without all the "polish" of hollywood...and that is just fine for this story, which, of course, actually DID happen. A little grittier than "The Long Riders", and that TOO is also in keeping...this, after all, is NOT a pretty story, so WHY doctor it up??? Robertson and Duvall turn in two knockout performances. Supporting cast is also FINE. Cinematography is simply fabulous. This one sticks in my mind, as does "Once Upon a Time in the West", "The Grey Fox", and "The Unforgiven"....check it out and see what I mean...you will not be sorry, it's top notch true story-telling, sadly "unknown".
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Philip Kaufman's version of the last days of the Younger Brothers was made a bit before Walter Hill's "The Long Riders," and it suffers from being hyped as a serious action film when it is, in fact, a black comedy. Robert Duvall's Jesse James is so deliciously over-the-top in his self-righteousness and his faux-piety that he tends to obscure Cliff Robertson's turn as the bemused rationalist Cole Younger who finds too much of life "a wonderment," while Jesse just shoots at it and runs.If Hill's film is about family and ties of blood, Kaufman's film is about greed and double-dealing raised to an art form. Everyone, except pious, mad Jesse is for sale in Kaufman's world. The Missouri state legislature can be bribed by the railroad to cancel an amnesty bill. Cole Younger plots with a venal banker to con the "good people" of Northfield, Minnesota out of their savings, then plans to rob the banker. The citizens of Northfield think nothing of cheating like mad to defeat a visiting...
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I love this little known and mostly forgotten gem of a western that takes a genre and a myth and plays with all the quirky elements. No movie can reproduce historical fact -- not even a documentary. I love the feel of the film and the rough around the edges style. It's like life -- sometimes funny and sometimes violent. This is a very American film about legendary characters who in life had already become somewhat mythic. And that's what this exceptional film is about. Recommended.
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