The Jack Bull

I’m something of a self-proclaimed movie buff. I sort of inherited a dear love for motion pictures from my mother, who is yet another one of the so-called experts in film. Though my knowledge is admittedly a little more contemporary than hers, but it was because of my mother that I have a healthy knowledge of the classics. And my father, whose love of westerns, has sort of rounded out that love with his intermixing of his favorites, which range from Tom Mix to Clint Eastwood. It’s a western that I’ve selected for the topic of this post.

In my experiences watching movies, I’ve come to appreciate performances of certain individual actors. My favorites include Cary Grant, Spenser Tracy, Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, and so on. Of the more recent crop, the one actor that will always come to my mind as exceptional is John Cusack. I honestly don’t know what it is abot this guy that I like so much; more likely than not his choice of diverse roles. He was easily pegged as a comedic actor until I saw him in movies like Being John Malkovich and The Jack Bull.

The Jack Bull is by far the best movie John Cusack has ever done. It was a serious western, not catering to any of the western stereotypical storylines I’ve come to know in watching John Wayne or Clint or even Yul Brenner. Like The Magnificent Seven (Shinichi no Samurai), The Jack Bull took a very plain storyline and turned it into a dramatic whirlwind of character and principle. In this film, John Cusack plays a horse trainer named Mryl Redding. He’s a stand-up guy, who knows right from wrong. He has a wife and teenaged son, people who know and like him. Basically, it’s John Cusack playing John Cusack. In this town of his, is a BadGuy(tm), but really he’s not. Henry Ballard isn’t so much of a bad guy as much as he is an old man who has built a town up and grown used to his position of being the big fish in his small pond. This story takes place on the precipice of Wyoming becoming a state. As with all issues, there’s at least two sides, broken down into pro and con. While shopping in town, Ballard appears before the townfolk, advocating against statehood. Seeing Mryl in the store buying supplies, he decides to single the guy out, calling upon his opinion. Ballard provokes Redding into a verbal match over the subject, and Mryl states that one way or another, statehood was an inevitability. Ballard charges him with being too liberal, and Mryl begins to walk off. Ballard continues to goad him, and calls Mryl’s character into question. He wants Redding to take a stand. Mryl turns around, walks over to the petition, and signs it. “I wasn’t going to sign the petition, Ballard, but since you called my character into question, I’ve got no choice.”

He publicly defies the big fish, and the story sort of goes on from there. Things get a little more complicated and eventually due to the fact that Ballaard has this town in his back pocket, even the sitting judge rules against him by throwing out Mryl’s greivances against Ballard. So, seeing that there was no law in his little town, Mryl decides to take the law into his own hands and leads an armed inssurection against Ballard. The end of the film leaves you with the sort of tragic justice, wherein the hero of the story gets his justice, but due to his illegal actions in pursuing his justice, Mryl has justice coming to him.

Excellent film. Even if you don’t like westerns, I highly recommend this drama as a good watch.

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