Streets of Laredo
The last of the stories of the life of Woodrow Call takes place around 1890. Woodrow is getting old, doesn’t get around as well as he used to. But he takes a job to hunt down Joey Garza, a psychopathic young murderer who is robbing too many trains, and killing the passengers. He kills for fun, just for the kick of it. The railroad owner wants him stopped. Actually, he wants him killed.
Much has happened. Lorena (Sissy Spacek), in a stunning and unexpected twist, has married Pea Eye Parker, the absolute last guy I’d have picked for her. But he is safe and reliable, and I guess she needs that. She has had several children with him, and is happy until Pea Eye once more answers the summons of his Captain. The poor guy just can’t resist.
Once more McMurtry plays fast and loose with history, and sometimes it is annoying. Judge Roy Bean (Ned Beatty) wasn’t gunned down and hung on the front porch of the Jersey Lilly by Joey Garza. John Wesley Hardin (Randy Quaid) was far from the loser depicted here. But we do see some other historical figures, like Charlie Goodnight, the greatest cowman who ever lived.
James Garner is quite good taking over the role from Tommy Lee Jones. He does stoic and distant very well. All the acting is good, all the writing is good. Despite that, this is the weakest of the series. Well, one of them had to be, right? It has the usual surprises, things that never happen in a Western movie, such as Woodrow getting shot by Joey, and Lorena having to cut off his leg. Woodrow never catches up with Joey; in the end he is killed by his own mother (Sônia Braga, a Brazilian playing a Mexican), who has moved Heaven and Earth to protect him before. She loves him despite all his faults. But when the crazy fucker starts to drown his blind sister and retarded brother, it’s too much even for her.
There is a subplot involving Lorena and her overriding fear of Mox Mox, a murderous pyromaniac who was one of the losers who raped her while she was a prisoner of Blue Duck. He burned two little children alive in front of her. I’d be scared, too. For once some justice is done, when Woodrow gut-shoots him and leaves him out in the desert to die, slowly and painfully, I hope.
Wes Studi takes over the role of Famous Shoes. Sam Shepherd takes over for Pea Eye, a dubious casting decision in my opinion, though he does his best. George Carlin has a lot of fun as a ragged frontiersman. Charles Martin Smith is the dude from Back East who has never seen country without streetcars and telephone wires. The poor fellow is driven almost insane by the land and the weather and the people, and he comes to a bad end.
It occurred to me that, in a crazy way, getting his leg cut off might have been the best thing that ever happened to Woodrow Call, emotionally. Having to totally rely on someone else is something new to him, and when the blind girl bonds with him, he opens up to her more than he ever had with anyone else. I felt his last years on the ranch with Lorena might actually be good ones.