The Wild Bunch (1969) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
Wild Bunch is considered Sam Peckinpah's greatest film, is rated
among the 150 best of all time at IMDb, and is among the best Westerns
Here are the top 10 westerns at IMDb
I don't really agree with the ratings in the sense that the Leone films, although enjoyable films in many ways, are vastly overrated and can even be comically bad in stretches. The Outlaw Josey Wales is better than many on the list (High Noon, for example). But that's quibbling. It's generally a solid list, and you can see that Wild Bunch made the cutoff.
Like most westerns, or violent action pictures in general, it is a guy-flick, rated 8.2 by men at IMDb, but only 7.2 by women.
|Peckinpah was considered at the time to be a revisionist because, although his storyline is that of a completely traditional romanticized Western, he elevated violence and sex to new levels of graphic prominence in the presentation. Frankly, you would never know that if I had not told you. Looking back on this film from the New Millennium, it is so tame by our current standards that you will barely be aware of any difference between this and a John Ford Western. Stripped of the shock value, which our dulled senses can no longer easily perceive, it is simply a romantic tale in the Western tradition. It resembles Butch Cassidy far more than it resembles any more recent Westerns. Although it is more violent and earthier than Butch Cassidy, it is also essentially a "buddy" flick about old-time outlaws who don't belong in the 20th century. Like Butch and Sundance, the Bunch are continuously pursued by relentless adversaries.||
|By the way, just one minor
thing - the real Rio Grande flows West to East. When the Bunch heads
into Mexico, after they cross, they head to the right - downstream, as
if the river flowed away from the Gulf. Oops!
The basic plot:
|Just before World War One, a gang of
aging outlaws need to make "one last score" (the dreaded
cliche - how many movies use that?) in order to retire from the
violent world they inhabit. The Old West they once new, in the era of
the horse and six shooter, is gone, replaced by a world with cars and
The Bunch still live the old way, playing hard and working hard, with their own sense of honor and loyalty. Their job involves robbing a heavily-guarded train which is carrying an arms shipment. They have to get the arms off the train and deliver them to some Mexican military types, in return for a specified amount of gold. Along the way, they are robbed of one case of firearms, according to a deal they struck with one of their comrades, a Mexican, to supply some partisans in his village. Although the partisans "got the drop" on them and could have taken all the arms, they only took the one case they were promised. But that was enough to make the Mexican General arrest the Mexican member of the Bunch when the exchange was made. Even though they pulled off the heist and get the gold, it is their very code of loyalty to their arrested comrade that leads them back to a death they could have avoided.
The plot is nothin' special, but it's a terrific film, one of the best "male bonding" films in the genre. Bill Holden is charismatic as the leader of the Bunch, supported throughout the cast. The actual train robbery at the center of the film is tense, exciting, and great fun. The bridge explosion is probably the most famous in all films except for the River Kwai.
And there are all sorts of layers of meaning not immediately obvious, one being the corrupting effect of their violence on the children who watch it throughout the film.
Recommended for anyone who likes Westerns or any character-driven action films. Film looks good, action is choreographed smoothly, the editing is excellent. One of the best.
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