The Curious Northfield Bank Job
After they helped protect the homesteaders of Clay Country Jesse James (Robert Duvall) and Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson) along with their gangs find themselves being pardoned for their crimes. Unfortunately for the outlaws not everyone agrees and both the banks and the railroad companies employ the Pinkertons to bring an end to the gangs. But old habits die hard for the guys and after having a vision Jesse James and his gang set about robbing the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota something which comes to the attention of Cole as well as others.
I've watched at least two other westerns which feature the famous robbery of the First National Bank in Northfield, one from 1939 and one from 1980 and where as I loved the 1939 western the later one was just average. Now "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" slides between the two, not just chronologically having been made in 1972 but also in how I rate it as sadly whilst it has some positives there is something about 70s westerns, the dull look which has never sat comfortably with me.
The thing is that story wise "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" is entertaining as we have a focus on Cole Younger and his gang's part in the infamous robbery with it initially seeming like he is helping the bank capture Jesse. But somehow this story feels drawn out with many a scene not so much telling the story but trying to establish the changing face of the west. As such we have scenes of a baseball game and a steam engine on the streets with a focus on how people reacted to these new things. And in fairness this side of the movie is entertaining but at times feels like the wrong thing is being focused upon, such as the Keystone Cop style comedy of the baseball game.
I suppose in a way "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" ends up a real oddball due to it have such irregular set piece scenes such as the baseball game. But it is entertaining more for being an oddity rather than for being a good western. It is also entertaining because of Cliff Robertson's performance as Cole Younger, giving him a touch of the comical worldly wise about him. Although having said that when you have Robert Duvall as Jesse filled with almost religious fervour when it comes to his vision of a bank job it is hard not to be entertained even if it feels out of place for a western.
What this all boils down to is that "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" is a curious 70s western which takes a familiar storyline but then seems to get distracted by tossing in some oddball ideas when it comes to the way the west evolved.