Although Clint Eastwood had just delivered a trio of superlative Spaghetti Westerns during the mid-1960's, by 1970 the genre of cowboys & cattle rustlers was suffering through some waning popularity with American audiences.Though there were a few fantastic examples still to come (Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller comes to mind), the western was about to become all-but-entirely obsolete.
So if you've never even heard of the forgettable little 1970 oat opera entitled A Man Called Sledge, don't feel too bad. I watched it three hours ago and I've forgotten most of it already! Blame the derivative narrative or the slipshod directing by late actor Vic Morrow...but there's not much here to placate the genre fans looking for something to enjoy between their weekly Sergio Leone marathons.
The always-likable yet sadly-miscast James Garner is the titular man. Obvously he's called Sledge. Sledge wants to steal a big cache of gold, one that's perpetually being safeguarded in a prison by three dozen brutal killers. Since you'll never find a gruff anti-hero without a handful of colorful sidekicks, we're offered Claude Akins and Dennis Weaver as a pair of entirely untrustworthy cohorts.
Much of the flick consists of confusingly-lensed action sequences, frequent double-crosses and overbaked dialogue of the silliest degree. Morrow's directorial style can best be described as aimless and confused; wandering hand-held shots lead to off-center close-ups of sweaty actors saying goofy things. Most distressingly, the infrequent action scenes, for all their rustic edge, exhibit little to no pulse whatsoever.
A Man Called Sledge feels a whole lot like a screenplay that Clint Eastwood passed on after starring in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. One could certainly overlook the tiringly familiar air of the movie, if only the action bits, the acting performances or the visual palette offered anything particularly noteworthy.
While it's not any kind of truly awful flick (fans of the genre should be able to get through the thing easily enough), A Man Called Sledge is a slapdash affair cobbled together to cash in on the Leone/Eastwood sensation of the late 1960's.Too little too late, although those who adore James Garner will certainly want to add this odd little entry to their DVD collection.