Pity the closet macho. Women have invaded his profession, and his club is taking them as members. Now even that Stone Age primitive, Clint Eastwood, has sold out to women’s lib in Gauntlet, a sorry excuse for an action picture which proves you’re never too virile to be saved by the love of a good woman. It’s only the gutter sensibility of a teen-age Las Vegas hooker named Gus (Sondra Locke) that keeps the dumb but loyal cop (Eastwood) from leading them into ambush. Everyone but the sodden officer, who prefers bourbon to bullets, knows neither the cops nor the mob want Gus to testify at the Phoenix trial to which he is escorting her.
Though these powerful ends are pitted against Eastwood’s middle, there’s too little action to let Eastwood show himself to advantage as the fine, stylized screen fighter he is. Instead, there’s talk and psychology, which he can handle only by gritting his teeth. What action there is— mandatory chases by car, cycle and chopper—seems perfunctory; the violence dutiful and dumb, more often inflicted on things than people.
Gauntlet is silly enough to appeal to Monty Python fans, but it won’t satisfy enthusiasts who remember Dirty Harry. The macho audience in at least one theatre vented their frustration with a chorus of boos as Eastwood’s armored bus (riddled by cops’ bullets) and the picture expire ignominiously on the courthouse Steps. KASPARS DZEGUZE
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