Like any genre, westerns can be complicated pieces of film and deliver the greatest character study ever seen or it can tell a simply tale of good guys and bad guys. Quantez is by no means either one of those scenarios though it does resemble the latter more than anything else with slight tinges from the former. It is the story of two morally ambiguous men who just happen to be partners and fleeing from a posse after committing a robbery, a group of men who are most likely set on killing them. Also along for the ride is Dorothy Malone as the love interest and John Gavin too, but it is Fred MacMurray and John Larch as Heller who capture your attention, not that there was very much else to focus on.
MacMurray plays Gentry, a villain who is trying to repent for past sins and Larch is the leader of the gang, a man who was good once upon a time, but whether due to circumstances of late including said robbery or even life itself, he cannot help but being bad and it puts him in opposition to everyone else. There is a very compelling struggle for leadership throughout the picture, the men contesting over what to do at any given time with MacMurray giving a subtle performance, trying to portray his character as a caged beast, a man working to restrain himself with Larch doing the exact opposite. Part of you is slightly amazed that both men make it through the film until the end without killing each other, at least until circumstances warrant it to be so. The performances from these two men are essentially the only thing that keeps this movie from being tedious with Gavin and Malone thrown in to shake up the dynamic a little by creating some of the tension that is present throughout. Though it might be packed full of clichés and while it does nothing to advance the genre, it does end up capturing your attention and it holds it until that final, climactic scene.
For the most part, the film primarily takes place in one room, creating a very tense and intimate picture than it would have been otherwise. There are a few exterior scenes that open and close the movie and they look good, but the real setting is that which takes place in the minds of the two men, two individuals bent on survival yet disagreeing on just how to do that very thing. While Quantez might be entertaining as a whole, it is slightly too long as it takes its time to get to the end result.
Good or not, Quantez is a fairly average picture. It would have been nice if MacMurray was given a little more to work with as the man was an incredibly talented actor, but he and the cast made good with what they had and it turned out all right. Suffice it to say, Quantez is worth a look if you happen to catch it on television, but otherwise it is not a film you would need to seek out.
3 out of 5