Newest Reviews:

New Movies -  

The Tunnel


The Tall Man

Mama Africa





Brownian Movement

Last Ride

[Rec]³: Genesis

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Indie Game: The Movie

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Old Movies -

Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena

Drums Along the Mohawk

The Chase

The Heiress

Show People

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry



Miracle Mile

The Great Flamarion

Dark Habits

Archives -

Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012

All reviews alphabetically

All reviews by star rating

All reviews by release year


Screening Log



E-mail me




The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah) 1969   

    An astonishing amount of thought obviously went into Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. In some ways, the movie seems to act as group therapy, healing the pain caused by the many liberties taken by the Western genre before (and after) its release. The film contains a vast amount of unsubtitled Spanish, there are few among the cast that can be considered conventionally attractive, the landscape looks gritty instead of pretty, and when people get shot they bleed profusely. It's a thoroughly modern movie, and has barely aged a bit since its release, since it places itself in opposition to all things past. Radicalism, it seems, never grows old. Yet, at the same time that its polemic is at its most furious, there’s a strangely sad feeling in the air that an era is ending. The film’s ironic ending, which suggests this lifestyle can continue somehow, seems the one fraudulent note in the film, especially when compared to the resolution of The Seven Samurai, which obviously inspired much of what we see here. The run down group of bandits that the film follows is nearing the end of its robbing days, whether they want it that way or not. Set in 1913, the characters sense old age, technology, and world war will soon overtake their relevance. When a car wheels onto the screen, it seems an anachronism and an affront to their way of life. There’s thematic significance to even the film’s smallest details, and that depth of field in Peckinpah’s vision is admirable. 


    The opening salvo in which a bank robbery turns sour is especially impressive. The assault that Peckinpah hits the audience with is thoroughly impressive in its comprehensive look at how one group of bandits can tear a town apart and vice versa. It isn’t exactly subtle, and the montage aesthetics sometimes are too rambunctious to provide a clear sense of coherency, but chaos that’s put on screen is nevertheless impressively orchestrated. The movie continues to astound throughout its running time, following each set piece with sharply observed moments of bonding and brawling between the outlaws. The lack of clear moral judgement in the film is surprising. Even the “good guys” are sleazy here. The only moments where a sense of honor rears its head come from the “bad guys”. Clearly Peckinpah thinks such moral simplicity is inadequate, and its inclusion in this genre, where the good guys are supposed to wear white and the bad guys have to wear black is rebuffed heavily here. He sees the assumption that times were simpler back then as unwarranted condescension. The Wild Bunch forges an uneasy alliance with the audience because of its refusal to turn itself over to easy answers to the questions that it poses. No consistent moral center exists. The audience rides with these bad boys with only our memories of reality to ground us morally. The filmmaking sometimes becomes so adept and encompassing, however, that we lose ourselves and cheer on the carnage. The infusion of intelligence that usually follows such outbursts allows us to feel good about it afterwards.


* * * * 


Jeremy Heilman