“Rio Bravo” was directed by one of the most skilled filmmakers from Hollywood’s golden age, Howard Hawks. His film is immensely entertaining, it looks great and it’s smartly written and directed. The intrigue is full of twists, as Chance and his men have to constantly come up with new ideas to counterattack the bad guys’ traps. Yet Hawks also spends plenty of time nicely developing his characters. Unlike a lot of Westerns, this film’s characters are not cardboard stereotypes but endearing, three-dimensional people. When John Wayne isn’t shooting his rifle at bad guys, we can see him being human and interacting with his friends. Wayne is an intensely talented actor, and here he delivers a terrific performance. I love how he can be both tough and tender. He’s strongly virile and masculine, yet he’s a good-hearted man. Some of the best scenes in the film are the quieter ones, as Wayne romances a talkative, strong-willed woman played by Angie Dickinson. What’s particularly fun is to see these two playing hard to get and pretending they don’t really care when it’s obvious that they have the hots for each other.
There are also a bunch of male bonding scenes (this is a Western after all) and they’re equally enjoyable. Dean Martin is surprisingly good as Dude, the sheriff’s old friend and partner who became a drunk when a woman broke his heart. The film has him trying to get back on his feet, but it ain’t easy. The other deputy is played by Walter Brennan as a giggly old coot, and then there’s singer Ricky Nelson as Colorado, a sharpshooting youngster who joins Wayne when his boss is killed by gunmen. Nelson, Martin and Brennan have a memorable scene in which they take a break from the heat to sing and play some music. “Rio Bravo” is really a masterpiece, one of the all-time great Westerns. It’s heart-warming, thrilling and romantic… It doesn’t get much better than this!