The Lawman and The Gunman
Let's get the bad out of the way with first and the title "Seven Ways from Sundown" because it comes from the name of the main character Seven Jones, or to give him his full name Seven Ways from Sundown Jones who had an older brother called Two. It maybe slightly amusing as we learn that Seven's father numbered rather than named his children but it is also corny. Fortunately that is the worst thing about "Seven Ways from Sundown" which feels like a forerunner to John Wayne's "The Comancheros" with its slightly similar story of a lawman bringing in a criminal and bonding on the journey as they cover each other's backs when in danger. And it works in the same way as "The Comancheros" did because there is solid chemistry between Audie Murphy and Barry Sullivan as they travel back to Texas and share these moments of drama.
Having just been made a Texas Ranger, Seven Jones (Audie Murphy - Hell Bent for Leather) arrives at his first post in Buckley and is sent out to track down notorious gunman Jim Flood (Barry Sullivan - Forty Guns). Having finally caught up to him Seven manages to arrest Flood, having shot him in his shoulder and begins the long journey back to Buckley. But as the lawman and the gunman travel together a weird friendship forms between them, a mutual respect for each other leading to Flood suggesting they partner up as they would make a hell of a fearsome duo.
Now I did say the worst thing about "Seven Ways from Sundown" is that it takes its name from a character with an unbelievable name but it is not the only flaw. Another issue is that as western's go "Seven Ways from Sundown" feels like one which has been made to give actors and crew something to do rather than because someone had belief in the story. It means that the story has plenty of weaknesses, it rushes through various points and delivers some under written and cliche characters such as the obligatory love interest, it wouldn't be a western without a pretty young girl would it.
It is a shame that more time wasn't spent on fleshing out these cliche elements because the main storyline is decent. As for that main storyline well it is about Seven bringing wanted killer Jim Flood back to Texas and growing to quite like the man as they travel together over a few days and nights. The sense of respect which grows between them with Jim liking Seven's style and courage whilst Seven trusting Jim not to shoot him is entertaining. And add to that the secret which is we know that Jim was the man who killed Seven's brother Two making us wonder whether at some point it will come out in the open.
But what makes all this more interesting is the confidence of Jim Flood because he goes along with Seven, knowing he can escape if he really wanted to and vowing not to go to jail. As he grows to like Seven and respect him we learn something more about the death of Two Jones and it leads to a very good ending, an ending which sadly could have done with some fleshing out but one which is as good as everything which went before it.
Now they key to all of this is that both Audie Murphy and Barry Sullivan deliver great performances. Individually Murphy delivers the youthful inexperience but also honesty of a new Texas Ranger whilst Sullivan delivers that confidence of a man who has escaped death more times than he cares to remember. But together there is this chemistry this element of respect, friendship and trust which grows plus an almost playfulness as Seven out wits the confident Flood. In many ways "Seven Ways from Sundown" is one of Audie Murphy's better westerns which seeing it is not better known is a shame.
What this all boils down to is that when you ignore that "Seven Ways from Sundown" is a daft title and a daft connection to the main character it turns into a very good buddy movie. It is similar to the later "The Comancheros" but also significantly different with Audie Murphy and Barry Sullivan delivering great chemistry to make it all very entertaining.