The Gauntlet (1977)


Clint Eastwood

Cinematography by

Rexford L. Metz

Written by Dennis Shryack and Michal Butler, the film was originally set to star Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand; Brando subsequently withdrew, replaced by Steve McQueen.  However, differences between Streisand and McQueen ultimately led to their joint departure in favor of Eastwood and Locke. The Gauntlet was filmed in Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as in nearby deserts in both states.


For the house scene, it was built at a cost of $250,000 and included 7,000 drilled holes that would include explosive squibs for its demolition. The helicopter chase scene included a helicopter that was built without an engine for the crash sequence. To simulate the gunshots from the gauntlet of officers at the end of the film, the bus was blasted with 8,000 squibs.From the total budget of $5.5 million, $1 million was spent on the various action sequences.

Critical response

Although a hit with the public, the critics were mixed about the film.

Judith Crist of the New York Post wrote that the film was “a mindless compendium of stale plot and stereotyped characters varnished with foul language and garnished with violence”

Roger Ebert, on the other hand, gave it three stars and called it “…classic Clint Eastwood: fast, furious, and funny”. David Ansen of Newsweek wrote, “You don’t believe a minute of it, but at the end of the quest, it’s hard not to chuckle and cheer”.


Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 82% based on 17 reviews.

Ridiculously entertaining

6 May 2007 | by TrevorAclea (London, England) – See all my reviews

A one-time Steve McQueen-Barbra Streisand vehicle until McQueen met Streisand, and subsequently a Clint Eastwood-Streisand vehicle until Eastwood met Streisand, The Gauntlet sees Clint sending up his Dirty Harry image as a none-too-smart washed out drunken cop escorting Sondra Locke’s foul-mouthed “nothing witness in a nothing trial” from Las Vegas to Phoenix and finding the Mob and every cop in two States determined to stop them – even the Vegas bookies are taking bets on ever-lengthening odds (70-1) on their not making it. From the days when Clint still made films in broad daylight and could film interiors without turning all the lights out and seen as wildly over the top at the time (even the famed Frank Frazetta poster art offered Clint as a Conan-esquire muscular figure in ripped shirt with girl in one hand and gun in the other), now it’s almost an exercise in naturalism for the genre.


Sure there’s more firepower on display that in all of Eastwood’s previous films combined (including both Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes!), with cars, houses and buses shot to pieces with gleeful abandon while helicopters crash into power lines, but somehow Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack’s script manages to sell the increasing absurdities in a perfectly conceived audience picture that’s designed to entertain and does just that.

There’s a nice line in self-deprecating wit that never quite crosses the line into outright stupidity and Eastwood’s tight direction keeps the action moving without losing sight of the fact that it’s the characters that really need to sell the film. Just as importantly the on screen relationship between Eastwood and Locke hadn’t overstayed its welcome yet as it quickly would over their subsequent films, their initial vicious sparring giving way to genuinely convincing tenderness in the later scenes, giving you a pair you can actually root for. Great fun if you’re not expecting gritty realism – like the end credit says, ‘Law enforcement procedures depicted in this film do not necessarily depict those of any law enforcement agency mentioned herein.’ No **** Sherlock.


Once again, Clint shows you why he’s the best in the business.

Author: TOMASBBloodhound from Omaha, NE USA
23 March 2006

How many rounds of ammunition can you fire into a house before it will collapse? Or maybe you’d like to see how many rounds you can fire into a bus before it will stop running. If you’re interested, or if you just like Clint Eastwood, then The Gauntlet is for you! Our film centers around Clint playing a sloppy policeman from Phoenix who is assigned to transport a sassy hooker (Sondra Locke) from Las Vegas back to his jurisdiction.


This will not be an easy task. First of all, this Eastwood character is no Dirty Harry. His Ben Shocklee is an alcoholic, and barely capable of doing his job. The hooker’s testimony could potentially bring down some important figures, so the cops and mafia also don’t want them to return to Phoenix. In addition to all that, the woman is such a bitch that even a trip across town with her would be almost too much to bear. The two are put in one harrowing situation after another as Clint proves that he has the moxy to simply “get the job done”.

This film, if made by or starring inferior talent, would be nothing short of ridiculous. Several situations that arise in this film seem improbable at best, and often ludicrous. Eastwood’s charm, and the razor-sharp dialog keep it moving along. You end up almost believing it could happen. Clint Eastwood is that talented. His acting and direction are as good as ever.


The film has plenty of memorable scenes. Along with the shootouts, we get some very amusing and often very funny situations. One of my favorites is when Eastwood single-handedly talks an entire motorcycle gang into surrendering one of their bikes or facing the consequences of his pistol. And what would an Eastwood/Locke film be without a scene where she is sexually assaulted? Though disturbing, the scene has a hilarious conclusion. Another scene belongs to Locke, herself. In it, she puts a foul-mouthed police flunky in his place using some very sexually explicit words.

That a film which would seemingly be quite ridiculous on paper is made into such a fine product is a testimony to the genius of Clint Eastwood. He is without a doubt my favorite actor of all time.

9 of 10 stars for The Gauntlet.

The Hound.


Did Clint Eastwood really direct this (or was it Ed Wood)?

Author: zacdawac from New York, NY
12 October 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The entire police forces from two separate states come out to fire thousands of gun shots at a dimwitted, but well intentioned cop and a college educated, hyperactive hooker because said hooker is going to testify in court that she saw the new police commissioner masturbating. And it gets better.

What do you do when every gangster and peace officer in Arizona and Las Vegas have orders to shoot you on site? First, of course, you increase your list of enemies by unnecessarily agitating a gang of fifty large bikers, then you hijack a bus in broad daylight and spend a half hour unloading luggage, at gunpoint, in full view of hundreds of people, then you provide the people who want to kill you with a written trip syllabus so they know when and where to expect you, and then you drive your bus right into the six hundred cops who are firing non-stop machine guns at you.


And it still gets better. After spending ten minutes firing thousands of shots at a fellow officer and his courtesan friend, on the orders of the new, clearly psychotic commissioner, six hundred heavily armed cops stand and watch, without blinking, as said commissioner is gunned down in the middle of the street by said hooker. And of course, after having more shots fired at them than the population of Iraq, our hapless hero and his hardy harlot humbly hobble away, relatively unscathed.

When Joel Mcrea and Veronica Lake chased a freight train, it defined movie magic. When Charles Grodin and Bobby De Niro chased a freight train, it was a moment to treasure. When Sandra Locke and Clint Eastwood chased a freight train, you might as well have been watching a bad Heckle and Jeckle cartoon. Comparing THE GAUNTLET to past and future Eastwood directorial efforts, like PLAY MISTY FOR ME, MYSTIC RIVER, and UNFORGIVEN is like saying THE GODFATHER in the same breath as GIGLI.


Clint runs “The Gauntlet” with a lady named Gus.

7 June 2004 | by lemon993 (Staten Island, New York) – See all my reviews

This baroque and utterly implausible action drama subscribes to the over-the-top theory of movie making. Huge quantities of bullets, bikers and bad apples are unleashed on Mr.Eastwood, Ms. Locke, his remand witness, and us, the audience. Eastwood executes the gauntlet with great resolve and resourcefulness: he even knows how to fortify a bus with armored plates. Clint is in peak form and Locke will never again reach the heights that she does here. Clearly, the two have wonderful screen chemistry and would remain together as a couple for more than a decade. Watching the film today, I think there is a scene that went missing–or was cut. It occurred at the beginning of the movie and involved the sadistic police commissioner and Locke’s prostitute. The scene is later described in great detail by Locke when she and Clint are on the lam in a desert cave. So where is it? My dad took me to see this “R” rated film on a bitterly cold night in early February ’78–it was released in late ’77. I think he was unaware of the rating because I did get an eyeful that night. Make sure you see this movie letterboxed in order to absorb all the destructive power and subtle artistry on display.


A chaotic road trip to justice!

Author: lost-in-limbo from the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
5 November 2005

A rundown cop who’s always on the drink named Ben Shockley is assigned to accompany a foul-mouthed prostitute in Las Vegas to a protection program across the country in Phoenix to testify against highly placed authority figure, although first they have to get through a gauntlet of bad cops and the mob who actually want them both dead. So now the odds aren’t in their favour, but Shockley is determine to do his job, no matter how big the odds are against them.


Classic Eastwood is on show here people. Although, it’s not one of his greatest nor particularly original. But this reasonably familiar cop / action film delivers what it intended to do by giving us a taut little road movie across baron landscapes with a tremendous amount of brutally fast-paced shootouts and grand chase scenes. I mean a lot! To sum it up, shootouts, shootouts and even more shootouts. Watch things go boom with a lot going on at such a furious pace! What more could you want?


So you ask, why is this nothing out of the ordinary? Because this kind of thing wasn’t particularly new within this era of films. There were definite shades of Dirty Harry; Eastwood’s character Shockley was the exact opposite to Harry though. The one thing you’ll notice is that there is no real excuse or depth behind the plot, but to stage one chaotic and stretched out shootout after another. Sometimes they feel like they go on forever! Nonetheless, they might be far-fetched and fail logic, but they’re rather well set-up by director Eastwood. Giving us a sudden burst around each corner and because of that there’s hardly a mundane moment… uh, maybe Eastwood did overkill certain shootouts, but it did get the blood pumping! So, when the “exaggerated” climax hits the screen – at least the film was consistent in that aspect.


The performances were top-notch, with Eastwood’s persona making any film his in watchable. He gives a stellar performance. Sondra Locke as Gus Mally was perfect. The chemistry between the leads was outstanding. The scathing and rough dialogue amongst them was a treat with great use of sarcasm and offbeat humour. The biting conversations truly built on the paranoia at hand with many top one-liners. This gives the film a buddy type of feel. Other key factors are the soothing blues soundtrack, well established camera shots that capture a beautiful landscape, but also the panic of the situation they face. While, there might be underlining themes running throughout the plot, I just didn’t read too much into it.

Just leave your brain at the door and enjoy the total chaos and destruction that follows with your screen being sprayed with bullets! Definitely recommended for fans of Eastwood and gritty action films.


70’s masterpiece from Eastwood. Feast for Clint fans.

Author: Mika Pykäläaho ( from Järvenpää, Finland
20 June 2001

Everyone has a number one favorite actor, I’m quite sure about it. I just simply love legendary Mr. Clint Eastwood and every work he has ever done. I don’t know why, there’s something so peculiar about him, something different. I wonder what would’ve the 70’s been like without Clint and his roles as a for example Dave Garver in his directing debut “Play Misty for me”, Harry Callahan, Joe Kidd, John “Thunderbolt” Doherty in “Thunderbolt and lightfoot”, Josey Wales, Philo Beddoe (yes, even him) and the mysterious stranger in “High plains drifter”? He’s done so much for the audience and I’m thankful for everything we’ve got from him over the years. I can’t help of admitting I love his flicks even if they aren’t as good as they normally are or should be.


I’m not referring to this movie, I’m just saying that if I love those much poorer films (Firefox, Pink Cadillac, Any which way you can…) it goes without saying I adore “The Gauntlet” because it’s unconditionally one of the best movies from him ever and there isn’t a real movie freak in the world who can possibly deny it. It’s the 6th motion picture he directed and Clint’s role as a drunken cop Ben Shockley is one of the coolest in his long and successful career and one my personal favorites. They don’t make movies like this anymore. Plot is so fast, funny and ridiculously amazing it brings me into a total ecstacy. I’ll promise when you’ve seen the crazy end sequence of “The Gauntlet” you’ll never forget this film. One of the most memorable Eastwood classics of the 70’s and a much better than for example many of the “Dirty Harry” sequels. I also think that this is Sondra Locke’s best performance in Eastwood’s movie. From Clint’s own directions, this is by far his very best police film. Definitely 10 out of 10.


Manages to combine preposterousness with heavy-handedness

Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
28 November 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In “The Gauntlet”, as in a number of his other films, Clint Eastwood plays a tough cop. Ben Shockley, however, is very different to Harry Callahan (or, for that matter, to Walt Coogan, Eastwood’s cool dude character from “Coogan’s Bluff”). Whereas Dirty Harry is a ruthless but dedicated officer who gets all the tough jobs his colleagues don’t want, Shockley is a disillusioned alcoholic (the first sight we have of him is a whiskey bottle falling from his car and smashing on the ground), a man who wants the important cases but never gets them and is counting down the days until his retirement.


Shockley is given what seems like a routine assignment. He is to travel from his base in Phoenix, Arizona, to Las Vegas to extradite Gus Mally, a witness in a forthcoming trial. (Coogan, coincidentally, was also based in Arizona). When he arrives, however, he receives two surprises. The first is that Gus is not a man but a woman. (It’s short for Augustina). The second is that she is determined not to be extradited to Phoenix, claiming that she will be killed if she gives evidence at the trial. Shockley realises that Gus is due to give evidence against powerful Mafia figures, who will go to any lengths to prevent her from doing so. Worse still, it gradually dawns upon him that some of his colleagues in Phoenix are in league with the Mob and have set him up to be killed along with his witness. He is forced to “run the gauntlet” to get himself and Gus back to Phoenix alive, despite being pursued not only by Mob assassins but also by most of the police forces of Arizona and Nevada. (The bad guys have convinced the authorities that Shockley himself is, in fact, a killer).


Whereas “Dirty Harry” asked some important questions about law enforcement and the nature of justice, “The Gauntlet” is simply an action-adventure film with some romantic elements thrown in. (Gus starts out as a foul-mouthed prostitute, but it soon becomes clear that she has hidden reserves of courage and resourcefulness, and she and Shockley fall for one another). There are a number of set-pieces as Shockley and Gus try and outwit their pursuers. It never, however, tries to be a realistic action film. The set-pieces are all way over the top, sometimes almost hilariously so, more closely resembling battle scenes from a war film than the sort of shootouts one normally sees in cop movies. In one scene Shockley and Gus are under siege in a house which collapses after a relentless bombardment from police marksmen; they emerge untouched. In another they are pursued by a helicopter which crashes after hitting overhead power lines (a denouement I could see coming as soon as I saw pylons in the distance).


The most bizarre sequence must be the finale when Shockley rides back into Phoenix in a hijacked bus. Although phalanxes of armed men fire enough ammunition into the bus to wipe out several regiments, he still succeeds in getting through the lines, suffering only a slight flesh wound. Gus is completely unharmed. The whole thing is made to seem even stranger by scenes that seem taken from a surreal comedy; the idea of bookmakers offering odds on whether a witness will survive to give evidence at trial could be out of Monty Python.

Preposterous action sequences do not always make for a bad film; think, for example, of how many unfeasible stunts the hero manages to perform in the course of every James Bond movie. The Bond films, however, manage to get away with being preposterous because they are made with a wit, style and lightness of touch largely lacking in “The Gauntlet”, a film which manages to combine preposterousness with heavy-handedness. The action sequences may be fun to watch in themselves, but they do not really add up to a satisfying film overall. One of Clint Eastwood’s weaker efforts. 4/10



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