The Wild Bunch (1969)


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Rating: The Good – 85.5
Genre: Western
Duration: 145 mins
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Stars: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan

Sam Peckinpah chipped in with his own meta-analysis of the Western in this uniquely poignant tale of an ageing group of outlaws and the extinction they face at the hands of politicians, modern war-mongers, and their mechanisms of change. Like Leone did in Once Upon a Time in the West, Peckinpah breaks the “rules” of film making to telling effect by beginning the film in a manner more suited to the end of the more traditional westerns. Picking up where most leave off, he then proceeds to fold back the genre with a majestic grace so that from early on in The Wild Bunch, there is a clear sense that the outlaws are wandering into a changed world which has no place for them. There is a brutal beauty as well as sadness to this and Peckinpah catches both superbly. It seems fitting too that the sterling cast gave their most memorable performances in a film of this stature. William Holden is supreme as he gives us one of the most iconic western anti-heroes, Pike Bishop, and he is matched every step of the way by Ernest Borgnine as Dutch Engstrom. Robert Ryan is also excellent as the ambiguously placed Deke Thornton. The violence and action have been much talked about but whatever your take is, there is no disputing the artistry in the choreography of the first and last scenes in particular. And like everything else in The Wild Bunch, the violence tells its own part of the story too.

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