The Shoot Out Plan
Both director Henry Hathaway and actor Gregory Peck made some above average westerns which helped define the genre, sadly "Shoot Out" is not one of them. Coming when the era of the western was nearing its end "Shoot Out" combines two elements, it is on one hand a revenge movie and then on the other it is the tough gunman showing his softer side as he is accompanied by a child. Hathaway had explored something a little similar just 2 years earlier with "True Grit" although in this case the child is a lot younger. But the trouble with "Shoot Out" is that it is dull and compartmentalized with the first half being all about Lomax bonding with Decky who is most likely his daughter and then a second half all about the revenge, feeling very routine in the way it shows both stories. It's by no means a bad movie but "Shoot Out" is one which feels tired, slow and made because people needed jobs to do.
Having served 7 years in jail for a bank robbery Clay Lomax (Gregory Peck - How the West Was Won) has one thing on his mind, finding his former partner Sam Foley (James Gregory - Clambake) who shot him in his back and left him to be caught. Aware of Lomax's release from jail, Foley hires Bobby Jay Jones (Robert F. Lyons - Annie's Point) and his men to trail him in case he is looking for revenge. But Lomax's search for Foley become harder when he finds himself saddled with Decky Ortega (Dawn Lyn) who may be his daughter and has nowhere else to go since her mother died.
So as already mentioned "Shoot Out" is very much a movie of two halves with the first being all about recently released bank robber Clay Lomax finding himself in charge of a minor, Decky. Before it gets to that point we do get a bit of revenge storyline as we learn that Lomax is going after the man who caused him to be in jail for 7 years and we also learn that Sam Foley hires 3 men to keep an eye on what Lomax gets up to. But for the most this first half is the slow and steady look at how Lomax and Decky bond with Lomax going from trying to palm her off on people to genuinely caring for her whilst at the same time we get the occasional question as to whether he is her father. The trouble is that this first half floats along and never really goes anywhere, just serving up various stereotypical scenes of bonding which try to make us warm to both Lomax and Decky.
There comes a point where you begin to wonder whether "Shoot Out" is going to go anywhere and thankfully at just over the half way point the revenge storyline shows its face. Now this is not the most exciting of revenge storylines as Lomax discovers the 3 men who have been trailing him and ends up fighting them. There is a twist to it as well as things eventually get to Sam's place but it's not that exciting of a twist. Basically whilst this second half has more going for it than the first half it's by no means as exciting as other revenge movies.
But here is what causes "Shoot Out" to end up quite cheesy and that is it forces far too much. The whole series of bonding border on the cheesy as the tough Lomax ends up being bossed about by this young girl and then the action during the second half is all set pieces with a William Tell shooting an apple on the head element being one of the most forced even if it is entertaining. But there is more and when Lomax confronts Bobby Jay Jones and his men and calls them punks it feels wrong on so many levels, you just can't believe that Lomax would call someone punk, he's an old time gun man. It just doesn't feel right, too manufactured and too cheesy and sadly it is just one of many moments in "Shoot Out" which doesn't feel true.
Despite this the actual performances are entertaining even if they are nothing special and often forced. Gregory Peck is almost on autopilot through out the entire movie, being charming for the most but strangely whilst not doing anything special he still makes the character of Lomax work even if it is a 2 dimensional character. When it comes to Robert F. Lyons who plays bad guy Bobby Jay Jones well he plays it so over the top it borders on being a caricature but his performance is the most energetic the movie gets and whilst wrong ends up being entertaining. And whilst there are other similar performances from the likes of John Davis Chandler and Patricia Quinn it is Dawn Lyn as young Decky who steals many a scene with a mix of cuteness and feistiness which maybe cliche but it brings a smile to your face, just a shame she wasn't more mischievous.
What this all boils down to is that coming when the western era was almost over "Shoot Out" is a rather ordinary story of revenge mixed with a tough gunman looking after a young child. There is neither anything special or new about this tale and frankly a lot of it is forced but despite this it will entertain as long as you expect nothing more than average and obvious from it.