Wild Bunch, The (1969)

Director:  Sam Peckinpah
Cast:  William HoldenErnest BorgnineRobert Ryan
Plot:  An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the "traditional" American West is disappearing around them.

Genre:  Western
Awards:  Nom. for 2 Oscars - Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score.
Runtime:  145min
Rating:  NC16 for bloody violence, some language, and nudity.

IN RETROSPECT (Short Review)

Bang!  Bang!  Blood spurts everywhere.  People fall down in slow motion. Bang!  Bang!  And the whole sequence repeats itself.  Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch is arguably the most violent, and gory Western ever produced. 

The film has a high level of rhythm and energy to it, mostly enhanced by the impressive original score by Jerry Fielding.  The action sequences are masterfully done, with many realistic gunfights inter-cutting with one another to give a sense of total chaos.

There are many edge-of-the-seat moments, often unpredictable in nature, that makes us hold our breaths.  An all-round performance by the cast works as a whole, but there's no outstanding display by any individual. 

Peckinpah opts to use children in the background during bloodbaths, to show how violence slowly corrupts the innocence of these people.  This is a landmark Western that breaks the norm, and Peckinpah's filmmaking style for The Wild Bunch has influenced many renowned directors including Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.

While not as absorbing as Sergio Leone's westerns, The Wild Bunch shows Peckinpah's mastery of the medium, and his ability to elevate suspense in a split-second.  This was a breakthrough film in the late 1960s.  

Often mentioned alongside Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch "opened the door to a whole new world of violence" as a critic points out.  Though guilty of several boring moments in its 2.5 hours runtime, this is still undoubtedly an excellent motion picture.

GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)

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