's own Deconstruction
of the Cowboy Cop
Ben Shockley (Eastwood) is a Phoenix cop whose dream of hitting "the big case" has been ruined by a few too many glasses of Jack Daniels. Which, of course, means that he's the one being chosen to escort a prostitute named Augustina "Gus" Mally across state lines to a "nothing" trial at which she is to testify. However, Mally is convinced that Shockley was only sent so they could get rid of him, and, after a few incidents involving a racehorse bet and the destruction of Mally's own house (with them in it), Shockley learns that Mally not only has mob ties, but also has incriminating evidence against a high figure in Phoenix society. And this figure has employed Shockley's own boss, the corrupt commissioner Blakelock, to ensure that neither of them return to Phoenix.
This movie contains examples of:
- Action Survivor: Eastwood's Shockley is so much a subversion of Dirty Harry-type Cowboy Cops that it's almost Playing Against Type (or Decon-Recon Switch). Malley herself is no good in a fight, although she manages to blow away Blakelock via headshot at the end.
- All Bikers Are Hell's Angels.
- Attempted Rape: Played straight (in that it was attempted, but stopped by Shockley) with the biker gang. Not so averted with Blakelock in the backstory. See Groin Attack.
- Blatant Lies / Arc Words: "A nothing witness to a nothing trial".
- Bodyguard Crush: Shockley and Malley, by the end. Punctuated by Malley calling her mother and telling her about how wonderful Shockley is right before gearing up for the titular gauntlet.
- Chase Scene: Shockley and Malley are pursued at some length by a helicopter containing some mafia mooks.
- Cowboy Cop: Punctured wonderfully. Shockley's a disposable alcoholic who is sent out only so the people involved can get rid of him. Prior to that, he had been waiting for his big breaků which never came. Not that it stops him from pulling all the stops on this case, though, once he knows the stakes.
- Death Course: The titular "gauntlet": two major streets of downtown Phoenix, cordoned off and packed full of patrolmen armed to the teeth.
- The Determinator: Shockley, in spades. Nothing, not even every Mob-affiliated gunman and trigger-happy patrolman on two states is gonna stop him from delivering his "nothing" witness to her "nothing" trial, if nothing else out of spite to his opponents.
- Engineered Public Confession: Done to Blakelock's Yes-Man Feyderspiel at gunpoint. Blakelock tries to shut him up by shooting him and Shockley. It doesn't ends well.
- Forgotten Fallen Friend: Averted. When Shockley's friend dies via police sniper double-cross, Shockley growls out his anger towards Blakelock and starts his run down "the gauntlet".
- Gender-Blender Name: When Shockley first turns up for his prisoner, he's told there's no guy called Gus Mally.
- Girl on Girl Is Hot: Not played for fanservice — a police officer starts going on to Gus about how he'd like to see her having sex with another girl — Shockley loses his temper and starts Pistol-Whipping him. Later when Gus is molested by the bikers, a female biker gets in on the action too.
- Groin Attack: A rare (although thankfully only told about after the fact) female example: Gus' backstory involves having been forced to have sex with Blakelocků who punctuated the "forced" by putting a gun to Gus' groin while he was jerking off.
- Hellish Copter: The mob guys' chopper flies into some powerlines.
- Hero Stole My Bike: Subverted; Shockley bluffs some bikers at gunpoint into handing over their bikes; he later runs into them again and gets beaten up. Played straight (and at gunpoint) with the bus used for the final run into Phoenix.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Augustina "Gus" Mally.
- How Dare You Die on Me!: Gus to Ben, near the very end.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: When the bus is driving down the street, none of the shooters with automatic weapons hits either person inside. Other example is the Mob sniper on the helicopter chasing Shockley and Malley on their bike (he do manages to hit the fuel tank, though).
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ben Shockley.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Minor example. Malley turns out to be a pretty good shot with Shockley's .38 at the very end, taking Blakelock out with it.
- MacGyvering: Bus + welded iron plates = improvised APC for the final run into Phoenix.
- Meaningful Echo: "Nag, nag, nag". Once used by Shockley as a sarcastic reply to Mally, used again to answer to Mally's How Dare You Die on Me! rant.
- More Dakka: Three times! First a mob of cops mows down Mally's house. Then later, the Mooks fill a cop car (and the poor Dirty Cop inside) with more lead than a Chinese toy factory. The final time, Eastwood drives a bus to city hall with heavy iron plates over the driver seat while the entire Phoenix police department gets trigger happy.
- Posters Always Lie: Subverted. The poster is pretty faithful to the movie, although Eastwood do looks like a modern Frazetta Man (bonus points for having been made by Frank Frazetta).
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Tried but defied. Blakelock asks Feyderspiel about why not just request his Mob connections to blow up the bus while it's en route to Phoenix, only for Feyderspiel to mention that blowing up a bus right in the middle of a major highway is a bit too blatant for the Mob to wish to perform. He then goes on to advice about the titular "gauntlet".
- Show Some Leg: Mally opens up her shirt to distract bikers from beating up Shockley. Accompanied by I Shall Taunt You to make them look.
- Title Drop: Near the end, when it comes time to run the gauntlet to get to the courthouse, it is referred to as such.
- Villainous Breakdown: Blakelock during the final scene, screaming to the Phoenix patrolmen to shoot and kill Shockley and Mally and opening fire upon Shockley and Feyderspiel while the latter is confessing the reason for the "gauntlet", putting solid proof to Feyderspiel's confessionů and not living long enough to regret it.