More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
Advertisement

Overall Rating
4.71

Awesome86.32%
Worth A Look: 5.98%
Average: 2.56%
Pretty Bad: 2.56%
Total Crap: 2.56%

6 reviews, 81 user ratings


Latest Reviews

Stare by Jay Seaver

DreadOut by Jay Seaver

S He by Jay Seaver

We Are Little Zombies by Jay Seaver

Lion King, The (2019) by alejandroariera

Darlin' by Jay Seaver

Astronaut (2019) by Jay Seaver

White Storm 2: Drug Lords, The by Jay Seaver

Vivarium by Jay Seaver

Art of Self-Defense, The by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed


Wild Bunch, The
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"One of the essential westerns. Or films, full stop."
5 stars

Watching 'The Wild Bunch,' Sam Peckinpah’s magnum opus, you might imagine it should have killed off all Westerns forevermore. Or movies.

The film, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on June 18, was designed to flip our violence-craving switch off by giving us splattering, gushing, slow-motion carnage. Instead, to Peckinpah’s chagrin, it fed and reinforced that craving. And yet, to modern eyes, it’s not the copious blood squibs and squirts that feel revolutionary (not when we know it was preceded by Kurosawa and Herschell Gordon Lewis); it’s Lou Lombardo’s time-scrambling editing, which glides from regular to slow motion between shots during the sequences of greatest brutality. Old-school mythmaking met new-school technique and produced, as Pauline Kael had it, a new wine that exploded the old bottle of the Western.

The basic story is older than the medium itself — a band of aging outlaws on one final score. But Peckinpah takes it and tries to strip off all the romanticism that had accumulated around the trope for the past seventy years or so. In retrospect, Gene Hackman’s character in Unforgiven can be seen as a Peckinpah figure, debunking the grand old legends of the West, replacing the pulps’ malarkey with his own cheerfully cynical version. (And I mean cheerfully; despite the gore and grime of The Wild Bunch, its tone is mostly the opposite of grim and gritty. There are a few points when characters join in full-throated nihilistic laughter.) In this savage universe, death is noted and given its due, but only briefly; life is pursuit and retreat, and innocence is represented by a group of children burning ants and a scorpion alive.

In such a godless place, only killers and thieves with some sort of moral code, however shaky, stand a chance of existing with dignity. Our anti-hero, Pike Bishop (William Holden), says that if we can’t be loyal to the men we ride with, we’re no better than animals. But no one else is obligated to share that ethos. The movie is set in 1913, possibly a surprise to newcomers, and the appearance of an automobile seems really out of place in the reality established in the film up to that point. But it’s not the car that’s the anachronism, it’s these men, who might have made their bones after or even during the Civil War, and who don’t belong in the 20th century. Moral codes are becoming an endangered species. In one short year, all the technology seen or talked about by these men — such as the machine gun that gets such play during the climax — will be put to use in the first Great War. For most of the movie, though, our anti-heroes — including Ernest Borgnine as sarcastic Dutch and Ben Johnson and Warren Oates as the loutish Gorch brothers — ride through a world of six-shooters, rifles, maybe dynamite.

The pictorial style of the film — classical, elegiac — bumps up against the technique that fractures and prolongs death. Peckinpah uses pure cinema to make his point about the world passing these men (this genre) by. The Peckinpah figure here might be Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan), formerly an associate of Pike, now deputized by the railroad to find and kill Pike and his gang. Deke doesn’t take any pleasure in violence, and isn’t like some of the human buzzards in his posse who rush to denude the dead. Deke seems to see the writing on the wall, and Ryan plays him with a sad gravitas typical of his great late-career performances. (Indeed, if not for later triumphs by Oates and Johnson, I’d be tempted to say Peckinpah got career-capping work out of everyone here.) A lot of The Wild Bunch, while working to be iconoclastic, is also archetypal. If you’re going to redefine painting, you still have to do it onto a surface, not in thin air.

And so The Wild Bunch is projected onto a big wide screen, larger than almost anything (though Peckinpah isn’t much interested in aping Sergio Leone’s near-parodic gigantism). The scale is epic though not inflated. The simpler men in the gang seem capable of joy, fleeting though it is (literally soaking in wine with topless women — the nascent second-wave feminism of its era touches this film not in the slightest, by the way). The older, wiser men can laugh ruefully at the abyss but have stared into it too often to forget it for long. That’s Peckinpah in sum. This lengthy Panorama movie-movie, with its crimson eruptions playing out in open air and sunshine, turning the dry Mexican sand into bloody mud, may be Peckinpah’s most personal film; he’s both Pike, an old outlaw feeling outmoded, and Deke, a former outlaw renouncing disorder.

Peckinpah and his film are profoundly ambivalent about which is the better man, and fifty years later that may remain more of a shock than the arterial geysers.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=685&reviewer=416
originally posted: 07/02/19 12:39:39
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: ActionFest 2012 For more in the ActionFest 2012 series, click here.

User Comments

4/16/19 Jonathan Almgren Undoubtedly the greatest Western movie ever made, absolutely love this movie. 5 stars
3/25/18 Jeff Wilder For my money, the greatest western of all-time. 5 stars
4/27/16 Ken A wild western classic! 5 stars
5/17/15 stanley welles a glorious and brilliant western 5 stars
4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
2/20/15 Chris Jarmick Once edgy groundbreaking still a Western Masterpiece 5 stars
9/05/13 mr.mike A Western classic. 4 stars
3/20/13 Daniel M. Amazing western film 5 stars
4/11/11 action movie fan on second viewing the shootouts were great but hannie calder and posse were better 3 stars
2/23/11 Vlad K. Best film ever made! Peckinpah was a genius! 5 stars
9/19/10 Jack Popular with the little penis crowd 1 stars
3/30/10 PAUL SHORTT VIOLENT BUT EXCITING, STYLISH, WELL MADE AND BRILLIANTLY EDITED 5 stars
9/25/09 george webster The finest western ever made! 5 stars
1/28/08 proper amateur film critic An incredibly involving and exciting piece of cinema 5 stars
11/29/07 M. Epting a sure contender for 'the best western ever made. Holden is spectacular. 5 stars
11/25/07 g webster A classic! One of the best westerns ever.Great acting,great story! 5 stars
6/05/07 John G I saw this film when it first came out and couldn't believe how great it was, and still is. 5 stars
2/11/07 action movie fan not wild about this pointless shoot em up. no story! I don,t care much for westerns anyway 2 stars
1/20/07 AJ Muller This, Unforgiven, and Josey Wales are the best Westerns ever. Period. 5 stars
7/26/06 Sepi53 Top Ten of alltime Westerns 5 stars
5/29/06 J. Garcia One of the best films ever made. 5 stars
12/03/05 Gene Carmean Awesome 5 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Well, yes, the start of the Art of Violence by Maestro Peckinpah, but,c'mon, pure Hollywood 4 stars
9/02/05 mckeown fantastic... 5 stars
8/19/05 ES I appreciate all forms of western for me this one is a classic 5 stars
5/28/05 Strutho The Duke hated it.. Thats good enough for me! 5 stars
3/07/05 Daveman Far better than Leone's crap. 5 stars
3/04/05 Chris Stephens Great Movie!!! 5 stars
2/17/05 Dusty Johnson Great western - right there with Josie Wells. 5 stars
2/09/05 Al Guy A classic western=Dirt and grit and blood and lead. 5 stars
2/01/05 bongeezer OverKill and Kill again.... 4 stars
10/22/04 steve The last word in westerns, no one can match it. 5 stars
9/05/04 DM One of the best westerns ever made 5 stars
8/02/04 J Lamp Incredible film 5 stars
6/27/04 eric one of ten best movies ever made 5 stars
3/05/04 Peter Joly The last great Western. 5 stars
1/24/04 CC Classic..and worth a while ....see Straw Dogs 4 stars
1/12/04 Hans Westerveld masterpiece 5 stars
11/28/03 john unexpectedly powerful the charachters are as strong as the action 5 stars
11/15/03 Ultron One of the greatest westerns.... no one of the greatest films ever made. 5 stars
10/19/03 Alan Thorougly Peckinpah. 5 stars
8/19/03 AD brilliant 5 stars
5/29/03 R.W. Welch Well-acted oater though it veers towards wretched excess. 4 stars
2/11/03 Ultron Perhaps the best western ever. 5 stars
1/11/03 Paul Coleman This is probably the best American film ever made!! Peckinpah was a GOD. 5 stars
10/24/02 Charles Tatum Peckinpah was great, I even loved "Convoy" 5 stars
4/04/02 felipe it is the best film of western and william holden does one of best perfomaces 5 stars
3/27/02 Inci G. Ozay The film was masterfully made. 4 stars
3/20/02 Ben Barka Not as good as everyone pumps it up to be--there's alot of goofy male bonding/sexism/racism 3 stars
2/17/02 Clarance eah 2 stars
12/05/01 Skip Young Over-rated. I've seen it twice to see if maybe I missed something. I don't think I did. 3 stars
12/02/01 Flip Kromer Tarantino got it all from here 5 stars
10/22/01 Stanley Wesolowsky Ph.D. Best western ever made -many modes of laughter 5 stars
9/24/01 JLH Holden is great. 1 of the 3 best westerns ever. True Grit and the Professionals the others 5 stars
9/24/01 Farideh Such an important, impactful film. 5 stars
8/23/01 jerry wiegers one of the top three or four films i have seen in my life and i am 60 now 5 stars
8/18/01 Andrew Carden It Has Alot Of Trouble Getting It's Act Together. 2 stars
6/03/01 Erik North Still one of the most important movie of the 1960s--and it holds up well even now! 5 stars
5/11/01 Pike Bishop Superb 5 stars
5/02/01 mr fork fantastico 5 stars
4/16/01 Chris M. Peckinpah is the master. 5 stars
3/23/01 BigBad Responsible for every action film that followed. Best Ever!!! 5 stars
1/19/01 Marv One of the best movie ever made. I wish the Wild bunch could have rode off as heros. 5 stars
12/13/00 Chris LEACH i thought that the film was absolutely brilliant 5 stars
11/06/00 Y.E.S. I'm not a fan of westerns, but this is a good one. Final shootout is one of the best ever. 4 stars
9/20/00 Jeff Peckinpah's best, damn near flawless 5 stars
4/03/00 PJ The Greatest Western ever made, even better than The Searchers, and Rio Bravo. 5 stars
3/29/00 qbdilbert listen to "let's go..." you'll understand Holden's eyse; his companions do & so do you... 5 stars
3/19/00 Skye Chapman a piece of Americana 5 stars
1/26/00 Jericho a good movie 5 stars
8/19/99 Matthew Bartley Lets go get Angel. Strangely moving 5 stars
8/02/99 Weird Andy Muy Huevos 5 stars
4/15/99 Jon Jackson The best film from a great director 5 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Best western of all time!! 5 stars
11/20/98 little jerry As crucial a film as Psycho.Hitchcock's cool & Peckinpah's heat are the decade defined. 5 stars
11/09/98 Lord Of The Dunce A great "man's movie". But more than that, western genre perfection. 5 stars
10/28/98 Silent Rob 'Kill 'em all' A perfect western, oddly enough, born out of the 60's consciousness. 5 stars
9/05/98 pooky the bald It's Peckinpah, man. Shit, what more do ya need? 5 stars
9/04/98 Badass A masterpiece! 5 stars
8/29/98 Johny See it. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:


Discuss this movie in our forum

USA
  03-Mar-1994 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jan-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A




Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
eFilmCritic.com: Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast