He never stole that $50. I did. When “Bubber” Reeves (Robert Redford) escapes from prison, it upsets the folks in the nearby town of Tarl, Texas. A man has been killed because Bubber’s companion is dangerous and Bubber is being blamed for the death. While he’s on the run, Sheriff Calder (Marlon Brando) wants to capture Bubber alive, which puts him in opposition to many of the townspeople who have resorted to mob justice. Businessman Val Rogers (E.G. Marshall) wants Calder to apprehend Bubber quickly since he fears the criminal will come after Val’s son, Jake (James Fox) who is sleeping with Reeves’ wife (Jane Fonda). The townspeople believe that Calder is Rogers’ puppet but Calder is his own man who wants to put things right for Bubber, framed for something he didn’t do … Famously problematic production because of on-set conflicts between powerhouse producer Sam Spiegel, director Arthur Penn and screenwriter Lillian Hellman, this adaptation of Horton Foote’s play and novel remains a lesson in star power even if the overall look of the film (grey-green) disappoints. Miriam Hopkins plays Bubber’s mother as a guilt-ridden paragon; Marshall has the town’s power but knows it is corrupting and he’s surrounded by vicious thugs, including Richard Bradford; Angie Dickinson is the soft maternal wife to Brando’s canny sheriff but she wants children they can’t have; Fonda is unfaithful but Bubber can’t really blame his friend Jake: Jake is basically a good guy, the son of the terrible father. Brando has a range that extends beyond many of his roles: good husband, put-upon lawmaker, victim of a senseless and bloody assault. He is the film’s conscience. Bubber’s friend Lester (Joel Fluellen) is black and that plays into the margin notes of the film’s text as a political work. The straightforward depiction of smalltown corruption, mob rule and violence is constructed against a miasma of soap operatics: Shoot a man for sleeping with someone’s wife? That’s silly. Half the town would be wiped out! Janice Rule has a ball as the good time girl cheating on deceitful Robert Duvall; Martha Hyer is partied out. Redford is a relatively minor character, imprisoned for something he didn’t do, the pivot of most people’s actions, the litmus test for their humanity. His journey through the countryside as he marvels at nature provides the thread of possibility that the rest of the narrative denies. He plays Bubber with decency and clarity; the scene sequence of terrible violence culminating in a Jack Rubyesque conclusion still has the power to shock. It’s a confounding work: a terrible indictment of the United States, the Deep South and complacency, eventually a rumination on the Kennedy assassination. I was coming to the end of me. I don’t know how I knew. But I knew.