The Wild Bunch

"Extraordinary"

The Wild Bunch Review


I am one of the few surviving appreciators of second bests. In hindsight, my second biggest crush in high school ended up being a much better person and is in fact the only person from high school that I keep in close contact with. Your second best is always the sneakier one, the more interesting and mysterious one. You've studied your favorite, your best, with the gumption and know-how of a private detective. You know them inside out. However, the second best is just a little less known, shrouded in an enigma; it's so irresistible that you sometimes forget why the first one is your best or favorite, but then you snap back in. If you're looking to get married soon, more than likely you will cheat or at least make out with your second favorite at some point. This is the way of the world, get used to it. It's all good news for The Wild Bunch, which happens to be both Sam Peckinpah's second best film (Straw Dogs is better) and the second best revivalist western ever made (after Unforgiven).

It's even got William Holden's second best performance (he was better in Network). He plays Pike Bishop, the head of an outlaw gang of ace criminals. We are introduced to the gang when it is nearly 10 men strong, but after a gunfight with Thornton (Robert Ryan), Pike's old partner turned bounty hunter, there are only six. Relentlessly chased, they quickly take an offer to hold up a train and steal 16 crates of rifles from it. They return to the Mexico town, still being trailed by Thornton. The only Mexican in the gang, Angel (Jaime Sánchez), insists on taking one crate so that the general who hired him won't take over his village. When they return to the general, they give him the crates and he gives them the money, but not before taking Angel and torturing him for trying to arm his village. An argument between Pike and his closest comrade, Dutch (Ernest Borgnine), sparks a return to the general's compound and stand off between the five remaining outlaws and the general's army, which consists of roughly 200 men.

The Wild Bunch takes new strides for the Western genre in both its character development and its story line. In John Ford westerns, it seemed at least somewhat clear cut who the bad people are and who the heroes are. Here, Peckinpah dismisses the sugar coating and opens with the gang of outlaws murdering and slaughtering as many people as possible to get out of their botched hold-up alive. There is no chivalry, no false heroics; these are grizzled, mean criminals who don't have any loyalties but to each other, and even that is shaky. There is also the inclusion of the machine gun. An unknown extra in the cargo they rob, the machine gun is an object of great mystery and great dispute. The Mexican soldiers trying to figure out how it works bears more than a passing resemblance to the opening of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's the sign of change in the old formula, the advancement of technology and time in a genre that brutally snuffed both. Holden's restrained performance points in the same way. He is the first person to say that Angel isn't worth saving from the Mexicans and they should just go ahead, while Borgnine wants to go back. The role of sidekick (logic and cowardice) and hero (bravery and romanticism) have been switched to an amazingly effective degree.

It's easy to see how current directors like Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino took Peckinpah's use of gushing violence and psychological underpinnings to build their careers (De Palma is equal parts Hitchcock and Peckinpah). The pure grandeur of the film even places it as the second biggest Western epic (The Searchers is bigger and better). There is a certain familiarity and love at showcase here. Like Sergio Leone, he strayed and succeeded in other genres but his heart was always with Westerns. And although Straw Dogs will always be his masterpiece, The Wild Bunch has a thunderous heart that you can hear beating under it. Being second place isn't all that bad.

Guys gone wild.



The Wild Bunch

Facts and Figures

Run time: 145 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 18th June 1969

Box Office Worldwide: $509.4 thousand

Budget: $6M

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Fresh: 46 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Dutch Engstrom, as Pike Bishop, as Deke Thornton, Edmond O'Brien as Freddie Sykes, as Lyle Gorch, as Angel, as Tector Gorch, Emilio Fernández as Gen. Mapache, as Coffer, L.Q. Jones as T.C, as Pat Harrigan, as Clarence 'Crazy' Lee, Dub Taylor as Reverend Wainscoat, Jorge Russek as Major Zamorra, as Herrera, Bill Hart as Jess, Rayford Barnes as Buck, Stephen Ferry as McHale, Sonia Amelio as Teresa, Chalo González as Gonzalez

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.