Odd couples are a bankable convention in movies regardless of whether the film is an adventure (Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen), a comedy (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito (Twins), or a buddy cop flick (Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour). The squabbling, ill-matched, endlessly entertaining duo has long crossed all genres but it might be most consistently used in Westerns. In a tough landscape, even the toughest guy needs a friend. Star-powered vehicles for big name actors like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Russell Crowe still find the supporting player is more than a sidekick. He’s a major force all his own.
In The Comancheros, The Duke meets up with an unlikely partner via gambler Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman). Normally, Wayne’s character would have brought such an outlaw in (he’s wanted for murder), but the two end up banding together to defeat outlaws smuggling weapons. Suddenly, the criminal has become a partner.
Clint Eastwood took the idea even further. After witnessing a Union soldier kill his family in The Outlaw Josey Wales, the title character (a Confederate) refuses to surrender and becomes a total loner. That is until he pairs up with some ragtag Native Americans and some Kansan settlers searching for a family ranch in Texas. Eastwood doesn’t just make a friend. He ends up the leader of a community.
The idea of mismatched buddies even surfaced in last year’s 3:10 to Yuma. Here Christian Bale plays a farmer trying to hang on to his land by delivering outlaw Russell Crowe to authorities. Their relationship, at first, consists only of animosity. Changes along the road finds them earning begrudged respect for each other. They end the movie side by side, guns blazing. Well, sort of. No spoilers here.
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