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#80 - The Wild Bunch

Sam Peckinpah directs this 1969 western starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Robert Ryan. Holden plays Pike, the leader of a group of aging outlaws in the early 20th century where the "wild west" that they knew is disappearing.

Another western. Who knew so many westerns were so influential? I'm just not a big western fan, I've decided. In any case, here's another one. This one, along with the usual excellent cinematography and pacing, features some characteristics we've come to find common in AFI 100 movies: ambigiously moral characters and groundbreaking themes and/or technology.

I found myself, once again, not sure who to root for or who to like in this picture. Holden and Borgnine play the aging outlaw well -- they're despicable for their bloodthirstiness and total lack of regard for common morals, but equally sympathetic as men whose time has just plain passed them by. They don't fit anymore. The climax of the film (which I'll detail in a moment) is one of the more stirring climaxes in the movie's we've watched -- all the work going into building these characters and taking them through their paces pays off in a 20 second scene of close-ups between the outlaws' faces as they decide to embark on the last gunfight of their lives -- and you completely understand why it had to end this way.

What way is that? Only the bloodiest and most violent gunfight ever committed to film at that point. Peckinpah is the master of western gore. The slow motion bullet hits with blood splattering and flying flesh is an orgy of destruction, and Peckinpah is painstaking about the detail that went into it. Tarantino owes a lot to this man, but Peckinpah is Tarantino's superior. Trantino's violence has no purpose. Peckinpah works tirelessly to illustrate precisely why the violence takes place in the lives of these men. He also worked tirelessly to make it look as bloody as possible, which was pretty groundbreaking as well.

So. The themes continue -- the ones mentioned above, and also the theme of not being enough a film snob to fully appreciate this. Although I am learning more about the history of film. So we're still being successful.

(See this post if you're confused why I'm reviewing movies.)


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 25, 2007 2:59 PM.

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