Steve McQueen made his last stand in Tom Horn. Dying of cancer, the movie was released in the year of his death. The movie opens with a dirge like drum beat, McQueen leaning back on his bedroll, his horse still, stands behind him. He’s contemplating the sunrise – and perhaps the scorpion stinger he twirls around between his fingers.
Pretty soon, after having insulted the future heavyweight champion of the world, Tom Horn (the famous “tracker and interpreter of the Apache Wars”) gets hired on by Richard Farnsworth’s John Coble. For the usual. Hired hand of the Cattlemen’s Association and protector from the rustlers.
Right from the outset, Tom is rightfully suspicious of the ‘arrangement’. Seems it’s all unofficial. As in this conversation never took place. The cattlemen want Tom to do their dirty work. But cattlemen can be as treacherous as Apache’s. Maybe more so. Especially when wealth, political ambition and power coalesce.
Now, you also have to have a little romance with (preferably) a schoolmarm. Linda Evans fills that role.
Climax: That old show down agin’. Turn on the man you hired to do the job you were too askeered to do yerself. But it takes more than one man. It takes a whole deputized posse to lie in wait for Tom as he sleeps it off in his hotel in the center of town. Morning dawns. Sunset on the old west. As it turns out, Tom is as resigned to his fate as Geronimo was, whom he captured.
McQueen is obviously ravaged. He seems to have trouble moving. Only 50, his face is is creased and tired. He’s at the end of his days, as is Tom Horn who knows it only too well.
A shared credit for the screenplay goes to Tom McGuane, whose fingerprints I cannot see here.