Newman as Billy the mixed-up Kid, an ebullient young illiterate who takes to slinging a gun when his substitute father is killed, only to face another, sterner father figure. Endlessly fascinated by his own image, blindly following a death-wish to its logical conclusion, this Billy is very much of the rebel- without-a-cause breed, a hero unable to match up to his legend. Violent, stylised, occasionally top-heavy with symbolism (although the religious parallel is convincingly carried by Hatfield's marvellous performance as Billy's Judas disciple), The Left Handed Gun is a remarkable attempt to communicate an understanding (ours of Billy, his of himself) viscerally, felt through movement and gesture. Penn's first film, it is in many ways a key stage in the development of the Western.
Cast and crew