Take a Hard Ride7/10
Rousing old school western(..not a spaghetti western, as you'd might be led to believe, but more closer to the Hollywood classics) which has two charismatic black stars(..former football players Jim Brown and Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson) as the heroes, from prolific Italian director Antonio Margheriti. Brown is a reformed criminal named Pike who is asked by his dying employer to take their hard-earned cattle money to his home town of Sonora. Carrying $86,000 in loot obviously makes you a marked man, but Pike gains an ally in flashy gambler Tyree(Williamson)who is eyeballing the cash, agreeing to help him get most of the way to Sonora..but Tyree vows to battle for the loot once they come to the half-way point. Meanwhile, a pipe-smoking, quick-drawing bounty hunter, Kiefer(Lee Van Cleef, wearing longer hair than usual)remembers Pike's past and plans to arrest him, also quite interested in attaining his money. Understanding Pike's skills as a gunfighter, when he has to be, and knowing the talents of Tyree, Kiefer will enlist the aid of cutthroats and other hired guns in order to complete his mission. But, no matter the number of hired goons he adds to his entourage, Kiefer knows that his target will not be easy to retrieve. Along the way, Pike picks up a New Orleans whore, Catherine(Catherine Spaak)whose kind husband was butchered by a mob of nasty cowboys and a high-kicking Negro(..raised by Indians), Kashtok(Jim Kelly, whose martial arts skills are well utilized in the film as he often subdues his foes by dropping them before they can even draw their weapons)who doesn't ride a horse, opting to travel on foot instead.
Lots of shootouts and stunning action set pieces, well photographed by Riccardo Pallottini using the location of Spain's Canary Islands to great effect. Terrific suspense sequence as our heroes must cross a bridge before others catch up to them. Brown and Williamson make an entertaining duo, their being African-American adding a unique spin to what is otherwise a familiar formula western..the idea of getting cash to another place avoiding gunfighters who wish to steal it is nothing new(..hell, Peckinpah's RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY is an example). Brown has never been as humane and considerate an on screen character, checking his ego at the door, allowing Williamson the opportunity to show off his pearly whites, playing the flamboyant, sharply dressed swindler who always has us questioning whether or not he can be trusted. Williamson lays on the charm and steals his scenes with Brown willing to be the straight man of the team. Lee Van Cleef doesn't stretch his persona..he's still a highly skilled sharpshooter with expertise and knowledge in the field of bounty hunting. When others do not heed his warning, they wind up dead. While he's a man of principle, he's not above aligning himself with nefarious characters if the odds are not in his favor. Dana Andrews appears in a cameo as Brown's boss who dies before he can enjoy the fruits of his labor, a welcome presence who earns our respect and admiration in minutes compared to many who fail to do so in a movie length's time. Classy Jerry Goldsmith score, and well orchestrated gun battles, shot with an epic scope and grandeur. I think director Antonio Margheriti is able to rise above the so-so material thanks to his cast and smooth style(..his trademark zooms which close in on the faces of his actors are on display). This was a big role for Jim Brown with Williamson complimenting him nicely. Throw in Lee Van Cleef, who has such a fascinating face, and you have a western worthy of pursuit.