Not being the greatest admirer of John Wayne, I have to say, he's the reason "The Shootist" works, and works well. It's appropriately affecting and melancholy seeing the larger than life star as an ailing, wily old man; he's in good company too -- Jimmy Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard and Scatman Crothers?! Damn. More ambivalent, sensitive and sentimental than I would've expected The Duke to be okay with.
A man of the past, out of place, an outsider, not in tune with current time. Wayne, atypically, is playing the weak, the scared, the doomed. This, and the way how he handles his matters, makes 'The Shootist' remarkable. Also, under these circumstances, how Brooks manages to built a 'relationship' with Mrs. Rogers is an interesting element. The rest is an average to good craftmanship of cinema. 3,5 stars.
I award this film one star, or one K from the Kowalski System. According to said system, a one K film is akin to "no-pleasure-guilt, lost time, bad candy, bad trips, no potential, selfish, rancid.." and a film experience in which "I'd rather cut myself with a rusty razor from the french revolution." Don Siegel shall henceforth be called: one K Siegel.
"The Shootist" can be regarded as one of the most literal reflections on myth through reality: a cancer-dying John Wayne (both in the movie as in real life) falls in love with a beautiful Lauren Bacall and sets himself to die with dignity in a last shoot-out: a man so anachronic that it is Nature that has to kill him because no other man can - his death a sort of romantic suicide and a final breath of the wild West.
By this time in Wayne's career he has just about done it all and here he shines, partly due to all the work leading up to this film and also because of his health and other such concerns - one of those films that sits with you awhile and then you realize how easy he makes it all look. Siegel directed two of my favorite episodes of the Twilight Zone including an amazing film with Steve McQueen.