Wild Bunch, The (1969)

 

How's about you Pick a Wild Bunch o' Peckinpah?
How's about you pick a Bunch o' Peckinpah?

Genre: Western

Starring: William Holden (Sunset Blvd.The Bridge on the River Kwai), Ernest Borgnine (From Here to Eternity"McHale's Navy")

Directed By: Sam Peckinpah (Straw DogsBring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia)

Overview: A band of robbers planning retirement head down south to do an arms trade with a Mexican general. Of course, robbing the arms is also part of the plan.

Peckinpah - a name I've come to associate with bullet-chewing gritty guy flicks. Even Straw Dogs, a tale about a pacifist protecting his homestead, can't undo the awesome macho that is Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia - and you know with a title like that, it better be that good.

But I digress. Peckinpah started directed Westerns on television in 1955, and since that time the mainstay of his career has been without a doubt the Western, with The Wild Bunch as one of his most acclaimed.

The story opens with a band of soldiers drifting cautiously into town.  The tension builds as we watch children piling fierce red ants on top of nigh-helpless scorpions.  A temperance parade begins marching through the centre of town as we see rifled men on roofs watching the soldiers approach a bank.

The question of 'who the real aggressors are' is a theme which Peckinpah hold dear in The Wild Bunch, and given how much of a fan of ambiguous morality plays I am, it was nice to see another Western carrying the torch of muddled perspectives. The Wild Bunch is a complex tale with backstory carefully meted out to the viewer to keep an air of mystery while still giving us everything early enough to keep us well invested when the proverbial manure hits the proverbial fan.

There's a nice surprise in The Wild Bunch however, and that's the camaraderie that we find among the rag-tag band of thieves that we follow. Having a story that includes good times and laughter without the scene itself being comic, well that adds an element of closeness that is seldom seen in Westerns. It's setting is original as well. Instead of the ever-common 1890s, our story takes place in 1913, right in the middle of the Mexican revolution and on the cusp of the Great War. Add an innovative cinematography that shows frequent rapid edits from multiple angles as well as slow-motion shots of men hit by bullets falling off roofs or being riddled bloody... well that tips the scale just enough into the awesome without even having to get into the final climactic scene that's full of surprises.

"Gee Ted! Do you think a wild b..." "Shut up Frank"
"Gee Ted! Do you think a wild b..."
"Shut up Frank."

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 82% (Saddle Up)
Aftertaste:

 Peckinpah. One of those directors who makes quality film for the masses. Every time I watch one of his, I get all excited about seeing another.

Is there anything in this world better than film?

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"Hey, we've got grenades!"

 Glad you liked this, it's pretty dear to my movie heart. I loved the parallels between the Robert Ryan and William Holden characters -- they're basically criminals with the same morals and skills, except one got caught and is still paying the consequences. 


Not my favorite Western but what a great film!


"Pretty smart, fuckin gringo"

One of my fav westerns.  the oneliners are impecable.

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