Rio, his mentor Dad Longworth, and a third man called Doc rob a bank of two saddlebags of gold in Sonora, Mexico in 1880. Mexican rurales (mounted police) catch them celebrating in a cantina and kill Doc. Dad and Rio escape, but Dad leaves Rio to be taken by the rurales. Rio is arrested and spends five hard years in a Sonora prison. He escapes and travels to Monterey, California, where Dad has become sheriff. Rio plans to kill Dad and rob the bank in Monterey with his new partners Chico Modesto and Bob Emory.
Plans are sidetracked when Rio falls in love with Dad’s beautiful stepdaughter, Louisa. Rio takes advantage of a fiesta (festival) to spend the night with her on the beach. Dad tries to punish Louisa for what happened, but backs down after intervention by his wife, Maria. Instead, he traps Rio, whips him in public, and smashes his gun hand to make sure Rio will never be able to beat him in a gunfight. While recovering from his wounds, Rio struggles with his conflicting desires to love the girl and to get revenge on her stepfather. He decides to forgo vengeance, fetch Louisa, and leave town.
Emory and a partner kill Chico and pull off the bank job without Rio’s knowledge. The heist goes wrong and a young girl is killed. Dad accuses Rio of the crime. Dad has one last private talk with Rio, again attempting to absolve himself for all he has done. Rio replies, “You’re a one-eyed jack around here, Dad, but I’ve seen the other side of your face”. Rio tells him he had been imprisoned for the last five years, but Dad calls it a lie.
Louisa visits Rio in jail to tell him she is going to have his baby. He is then beaten by sadistic deputy Lon Dedrick, who desired and has been denied Louisa’s affection. Maria confronts Dad and insists on being told the truth about the relationship between him and Rio, stating she knew something was wrong since the moment Rio arrived. She says she knows Dad wants to hang him purely out of guilt. Dad tells her she has no appreciation for everything he has done for her.
Louisa attempts to smuggle a Derringer to Rio, but she is discovered by Dedrick, who carries her out of the jail, leaving the gun on a table. While they are out, Rio is able to get hold of the pistol. Pointing the unloaded gun at Dedrick when he returns, Rio bluffs his way out of jail in a tense confrontation. Rio takes Dedrick’s revolver, beats him unconscious, and locks him in a cell. As Rio is making his escape, he is spotted by Dad, riding into town. Under fire, in the final showdown Rio shoots Dad dead.
Rio and Louisa ride out to the dunes and say a sentimental farewell. Now a hunted man, Rio tells Louisa that he might go to Oregon, but will return for her in the spring.
One-Eyed Jacks is a 1961 American Western film directed by and starring Marlon Brando, his only directorial credit. Brando portrays the lead character Rio, and Karl Malden plays his partner, “Dad” Longworth. The supporting cast features Pina Pellicer, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson and Slim Pickens.