Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

'Dan Candy's Law' is a different western

Dan Candy's Law (aka "Alien Thunder") (1973)
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Kevin McCarthy, Jean Duceppe, John Boylan, Chief Dan George, Gordon Tootoosis, and Francine Racette
Director: Claude Fournier
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A Canadian Mountie's obsession with hunting down and bringing to trail a Cree Indian (Tootosis) who killed his friend and colleague (McCarthy) ends up triggering a confrontation between rebellious Native Americans and the Canadian army. Will Dan Candy (Sutherland) get his man, and at what cost?

"Dan Candy's Law" is a quiet, almost gentile movie--despite the cussing, gunplay and ultimately cannon fire--that is through-and-through Canadian western. Instead of the scorching heat of a desert southwest, we have the chilly windswept northwestern plains of Canada. Instead of a shoot-from-the-hip renegade vigilante sheriff, we have a tall-tale-telling Mountie who, even while disobeying orders from his superior, is trying to uphold the law and to bring a fugitive murderer to justice before a court.

Based on a true story of a NWMP officer Dan Candy who spent a year tracking a Cree Indian who stole government cattle and killed a police officer while escaping custody, the film is sympathetic to both the police officers and white settlers and the Native Americans who have been displaced. It's a film that's probably a lot closer to reality than most westerns that are made, even to the point of the way it unfolds slowly and quietly, except for moments of chaos and violence.

Donald Sutherland is particularly excellent in the film, and his character is a fascinating one, particularly for a western. More often than not, movies center on vigilantes who are out for revenge more than anything else, but the anger of his friend's murder subsides, Candy returns to being a true professional who stands for law and order on the frontier. Up to the very end, he is dedicated to bringing in his suspect alive, if possible.

If you enjoy the western genre, "Dan Candy's Law" might be a nice change of pace for you.

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