The Wanderer (High Plains Drifter, 1973)
The small mining town of Lago is shaken by the arrival of a mysterious stranger who came from the desert. After he guns down three men harassing him, the town wants his help. The sheriff was killed by a gang, and they want him to help them deal the returning gang.
After agreeing, the Stranger discovers the town was actually complicit in the death of their sheriff, who had discovered important information about who owned the land the mine is on. However, they turned on the gang. This raises the question if the town will also turn on the Stranger.
To be honest, I have trouble rooting for the Stranger in this film. Very early on, there is a scene where one of the women of the town berates the Stranger. He drags her off and rapes her. And this is not a scene I can play off as “it was the times…” This is not presented as one of those outdated “she really wanted it, he just needed to overcome her frosty exterior” sequences. The film recognizes it is rape and treats it like she has it coming. It casts the Stranger in a very unpleasant light previous Eastwood leads did not have, even prior “scoundrels”.
This casts a long shadow over the story making the entire affair tough. The Stranger is clearly the hero of the story, but he commits an obscene act of cruelty that makes him impossible to see in the light of “hero”. Not even an anti-hero.