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The Hired Hand Review

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The simple story of drifter Harry, who, following years in the Wild West wilderness with partner Arch, tries to reconnect with his estranged wife.

★★★★

Peter Fonda's dated but fascinating 1971 directorial debut is an undiscovered treat. Made in that post-Easy Rider/pre-Star Wars golden age of Hollywood, this is the simple story of drifter Harry (Fonda), who, following years in the Wild West wilderness with partner Arch (Oates), tries to reconnect with his estranged wife (Bloom).

The film is shot through with the languid pace, realistic characters and rejection of convention that marked out the early '70s. Lyrically lensed by Altman cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, it is a film marinated in melancholy.

Although it moves inexorably towards violence as Harry's past catches up with him, the gunfights are swift, brutal and believable, never descending into the realms of Peckinpah excess. And, if for no other reason, this is a glorious excuse to take in the genius of Warren Oates.

Although it moves inexorably towards violence as Harry's past catches up with him, the gunfights are swift, brutal and believable, never descending into the realms of Peckinpah excess. And, if for no other reason, this is a glorious excuse to take in the genius of Warren Oates.

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