Hell Bent ★★½

HELL BENT (John Ford, USA, 1918, 5)

Hard to believe that an F. John Ford movie could have such a confusing story, with so many balls in the air. Lots of awesome Ford touches that you can see raised to a whole aesthetic in his mature and later films — a posse represented as shadows on the floor of the desert, another shot from far above as a group of outlaws ambush a wagon train, and the fade-in to the main story from a painting, as a remembrance of things past. But Harry Carey isn’t as distinctive a hero as John Wayne, and it was rather hard to keep straight what groups meant what to whom. From a director known for his clean efficiency, I’d’ve just chalked it up to my own failure if my seatmate hadn’t asked immediately upon HELL BENT ending if I’d had trouble following it.