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In what may turn out to be a marketing masterstroke, Director Schumacher has gathered a talented group of young actors who have populated several of the teen-targeted movies of recent years. The likes of Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy all prove themselves agreeably capable of acting their age. Each of them has a following, which, taken together, could amount to a large audience. That's all right. One can think of adolescent fads a lot less cute than Lowe and his friends. -R.S.
Stardom gets to people. Seeing themselves bigger than life onscreen, actors figure their characters' next step is toward deity. So Sly Stallone rewrites history and wins the Viet Nam War in retrospect. Robert Redford turns the gifted loser of Bernard Malamud's novel The Natural into a legend inscribed in fireworks. As for Clint Eastwood, cited in a recent Roper poll as the nation's No. 1 hero, impersonating mere humans is no longer a challenge. So in Pale Rider, Hollywood's first big-time, straight-faced western since Heaven's Gate, Eastwood plays God, or maybe Death. With his gritty stare and stubble, he looks like both, warmed over.
He is literally the answer to a maiden's prayer. With Carter Crick laid waste by evil strip miners, young Megan (Sydney Penny) kneels over her martyred pooch and begs God for "a miracle" to save her mother (Carrie Snodgress), her mom's suitor (Michael Moriarty) and what is left of the settlement. Dissolve to Clint on horseback. He saves the good folks, kills the bad folks, dodges a mother-daughter rivalry for his affections and ends up in a showdown ^ with a gunslinger (John Russell) who is even gaunter than Clint. You could hibernate in Russell's cheek hollows.
When Eastwood, who also directed the picture (from a Michael Butler-Dennis Shryack script), faces off against Russell's Maleficent Seven, viewers may get an old-fashioned western tingle. But Pale Rider does nothing to disprove the wisdom that this genre is best left to the revival houses. A double feature of Shane and Eastwood's High Plains Drifter will do just fine, thanks. -R.C.