The Wild Bunch (1969) – Movie Review

Unexpected depth and nuance told through this classic western.

Arts, Editorial / ,

28 November 2008

 

4.5 of 5

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A post turkey coma had me yearning for a movie lastnight. I popped on the computer and navigated my way to Netflix and their Watch Instantly section. As an asside, I LOVE netflix – especially that  I can watch good quality streaming movies on my PC which I happen to have rigged up w/ a beautiful 24″ flatscreen and some nice 2.1 speakers. In any event, I hopped onto netflix and started browsing for an easy-on-the-brain movie I could snooze off to. What I found however was a very remarkable film.

The Wild Bunch is more than your typical western. Set in the border region of Texas during the early early 1900’s, the film traces the actions of a group of mauraders faced with demise – demise of their youthful capabilities on one level as the main characters bemoan their aches and pains and the rigor of living on the run. There is also the demise of their open and lawless world as society encroaches and leaves them nothing but nooks and crannies in which to ply their trade – that is except for the vast south. Mexico.

So like Cassidy and the Kid, the ensemble dreams of one last big job and then staking out a new existance in some distant locale where they can individually find peace.

What I particularly enjoyed was the almost anthropological view of the pueblos and their inhabitants once south of the Rio Grande. Director Sam Peckinpah clearly had an affinity for these people and he treated them with honor through authenticity rather than painting with the fat brush of typical hollywood stereotypes.

The movie begins like many westerns – a mysterious group riding into town – except this intro is broken up by images of children pitting scorpion against red ants in a makeshift arena. Bizarre almost and quite violent. We soon are taken into town. As our wild bunch looks to make a hastey get-a-way, a vicious gun battle ensues – replete with odd angle quick camera cuts and the deaths of more than a few innoscent townspeople – usually its just the bad guys who get hurt right? This sets the tone for anything but your ordinary western.

If you rent, make sure you get the 2006 release in full anamorphic 2.39:1 cienematic letterbox glory. It will make the difference.

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