Director: Antonio Margheriti
Starring: Jim Brown, Lee Van Cleef, Fred Williamson, Catherine Spaak, Jim Kelly, Barry Sullivan, Dana Andrews, Harry Carey Jr.
More info: IMDb
Tagline: It Rides With The Great Westerns
Plot: Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, folks not normally associated with Euro-made westerns, take it upon themselves to deliver a large payroll to a ranch in Sonora, Mexico, after the ranch owner (Andrews) dies while on the road. Everybody who hears of this -- and I mean everybody -- goes after them. This includes the local sheriff (Sullivan), an army of drifters and gun hands, and bounty hunter Lee Van Cleef, who recognizes Brown as a wanted man from years before.
My rating: 6/10
Will I watch it again? Nah. Once was fine.
#15 on 42nd Street Forever Vol. 2: The Deuce (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)
Here's an odd bird. It's an Italian & American co-production - a Blaxploitation Spaghetti Western as it were with a little chop socky tossed in for good measure (another REALLY popular genre at this time). Fans of the Spaghettis will notice right off the bat this was filmed in Spain as most of them were and fans of Blaxploitation will dig on having Brown, Williamson and Kelly in the same picture. There's enough of each genre to keep you satisfied.
Lee Van Cleef plays a curious role of not exactly being the bad guy but not exactly being the good guy, either. He's just doing his job to bring a wanted man to justice but he was wanted many years ago and he's changed his life around into a respectable member of society. We never know what Brown did which makes it more interesting.
Brown is his usual quiet, stoic self. Williamson does his usual grinning and hamming it up. Kelly doesn't say much...he doesn't have to. That and he has no tongue but he takes with his roundhouse kicks and boots to the head. Van Cleef is looking old. That grey crazy hair doesn't help. He doesn't have an awful lot to do which, if you've seen any of the many films he did a few years earlier you'll long for those days when he was an A-1 ass kicker.
The score is different in that it's not a Spaghetti Western score nor is it a Blaxploitation score. Jerry Goldsmith does an adequate job providing basically one good theme. I don't think I heard much more than that except for variations on that theme. From what I can recall (and I'm pretty sure I've listened to all of his Western soundtracks) this is the least exciting of his scores for the genre. That doesn't mean it's not good, it's just not up to the other he wrote.
TAKE A HARD RIDE lacks any momentum. Maybe it's the simple telling of the story. The action's OK but there's no real threat of danger or urgency. Maybe it's Jim Brown's calm blandness. I still like the dude but he doesn't emote and that hurts the characters he plays sometimes. It's like he shows up for the gig to collect a paycheck. It doesn't help that Fred Williamson goes in the opposite direction not knowing when to hold back. Now that I'm thinking about it, there are too many characters, too many people going after the money. It felt like a crutch to help hide what was lacking in the script - excitement. Don't take my word for it. If you're a fan of the genres or any of the actors, it's a must-see. Whether you see it again is up for debate.