It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
It isn't just that John Wayne gets killed. He was killed before in the movies although not very often, and certainly not after he assumed the mantle of legend. No, it isn't that; he had to catch it sometime. And give him credit. He can absorb lead like nobody since "The Thing" (from another world). He gets shot in the leg. Then in the arm. Then in the other arm. Then in the back. And he still lives until morning, and has a noble speech or two left inside him.
The thing is, when John Wayne finally dies, it is because "The Cowboys" has violated a Western convention. It is a sacred belief of the genre that good guys never miss, and bad guys never hit. The bad guys can pour a rain of lead into a besieged position and hit nothing more than a lantern or a whisky bottle, even by accident. But then all a good guy has to do is pop up and squeeze the trigger, and a villain bites the dust at 200 yards.
"The Cowboys" tries to get around the convention by depriving Wayne of a chance to shoot at all, and disarming his dozen or so teenaged sidekicks. He's killed while he's unarmed (and after having already beaten the daylights out of a man thirty-five years his junior). But then.
Well, the kids break open a packing crate and get their rifles and pistols back. These are kids without a lot of heavy shooting behind them, you understand. Two of them are fifteen. The others are younger. One stands about as high as the Duke's gunbelt. But, by golly, they ambush ten bad guys! Lure three of them off into the woods on ruses. Take advantage of the fact that all bad guys and movie Nazis are deaf, never look behind themselves, and never realize their partners have been replaced by the enemy.
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