Monte Hellman’s Ride in the Whirlwind is a flat, woodenly acted western with mild suspense that never grabs. Part of the fault is with Jack Nicholson’s script, which is little more than a promising plot line rather than a fully developed scenario. Nicholson also plays the lead, but since Nicholson the writer has little to say, Nicholson the actor has even less.
Hellman never exploits the full potential of the situations. A trio of uncommunicative saddle tramps – Nicholson, Cameron Mitchell, Tom Filer – stumble on a motley gang holed up in a mountain shack after a stage coach robbery. For reasons never adequately explained, the one-eyed gang leader is downright cordial to the cow pokes.
They spend the night, and in the morning find themselves surrounded by a posse of vigilantes that is going to string them up first and ask questions later.
In the getaway Filer is shot down and Mitchell and Nicholson have to climb up a sheer canyon.
Not one of the characters emerges from the flatness of the screen, and to a man they move and talk like animated cigar store Indians.