A powerful unfoldment of a particular incident in US history, the film becomes, by extension, a deeply personal and radical vision of the past and future.
Film [from the book Willie Boy . . . A Desert Manhunt by Harry Lawton] tells the story of the tracking-down of a renegade Indian in California in 1909. Although Robert Blake is the title character, the film is really about Robert Redford, Coop, the deputy sheriff whose assignment it is to track down Willie.
Abraham Polonsky, who was blacklisted for 20 years, is not a director who works through his actors. Thesps are simple tools of his vision – their presences more than their abilities are used. Nobody’s going to win any acting awards for their work herein. Still, Redford’s ‘presence’ is magnificent, always suggesting the classically-structured, powerful-but-weak American.