Pocket Money (1972) – full review!
Paul Newman plays a nerdy geeky cowboy? From his voice to the way he walks the actor gives a most unusual performance in this rather obscure character study-buddy picture that pairs him with an equally obtuse Lee Marvin. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg with a screenplay by Terrence Malick (that explains it!) that was based on J.P.S. Brown’s novel “Jim Kane” which was adapted by John Gay (Separate Tables (1958)) it’s an oddly mixed Western comedy with peculiar characters including those played by Strother Martin Wayne Rogers and Hector Elizondo. Christine Belford appears briefly as Adelita the “queen bee” of a Mexican ranch whose appearance in the film is superfluous (as are other elements).
Jim Kane (Newman) is an honest dimwit with an impeccable reputation who finds himself in need of money when the Appaloosa horses he’s just brought to market are quarantined for a venereal-like disease. His uncle Herb (Fred Graham) offers him a job at the horse auction but Jim declines and instead gets mixed up with a shady character named Bill Garrett (Martin) through his slick operator “friend” Stretch Russell (Rogers). Garrett needs Jim to obtain 250 head of two year old rodeo cattle from Mexico and then bring them to Chihuahua. Jim heads south of the border where he rendezvouses with his old friend Leonard (Marvin) who has better connections and knows how to deal with locals like Juan (Elizondo) than he does. And so their journey begins … which includes Leonard’s odd automobile and moneymaking ideas (colored salt) bartering with untrustworthy Mexicans (one’s never sure who is taking advantage of whom) Jim getting thrown into prison where he briefly meets another American (Matt Clark) a long cattle drive (accompanied by Alex North’s score; Carole King sings the title song) with a predictable end result – though Jim is paid $2/head for the steer Garrett refuses to pay him his $560 in expenses because ostensibly “the bottom has dropped out of the rodeo business” – and an abrupt ending to the “story”.