The basic story involves some aging, American
outlaws, The Wild Bunch, who find themselves in a new West where
their traditional ways of making a living are severely curtailed,
and end up going to Mexico, as they are being hunted by a posse
led by an ex-member of their gang, Thornton (Robert Ryan), forced
to do so, or face doing time in a harsh prison. While in Mexico,
The Wild Bunch decide to search for one more big score before
retiring. When one of their own is captured by the Mexican Army,
they must decide if they'll try to rescue him and likely facing
doom in the process.
THE WILD BUNCH is a classic because of top notch
direction, dialogue, acting, musical score, editing, and cinematography.
Director Peckinpah was working at the height of his powers with
this movie, as was everyone else involved with the production,
particularly the film editor. Once controversial for its violence,
the film, while still having impact, lacks the shock power it
had during its initial release.
The acting in THE WILD BUNCH is solid as a rock.
William Holden (Pike) and Ernest Borgnine (Butch), deliver great
performances as the leaders of the doomed outlaws who've lived
past their prime.
Robert Ryan (Thornton) gives a great performance
as a man in a personal torturous dilemma, who has to decide if
close friendship and loyalty to The Wild Bunch is more important
than his own future, which will be doomed if he doesn't help the
authorities to bring his friends to justice.
Warren Oates and Ben Johnson, who were well-established
character actors in their own right, were perfectly cast as Lyle
and Tector Gorch, members of Pike and Butch's gang.
Character actors L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin
are very convincing as the slimy, scummy, "cowardly, scheming,
body robbing bounty hunters," striving to get the dead bodies
of The Wild Bunch for the money offered for each outlaw.
THE WILD BUNCH has numerous memorable scenes.
My favorite scene takes place late in themovie. Having returned
to retrieve their buddy from the Mexican army, they almost succeed,
only to see his throat cut before their eyes. Against incredible
odds, the Bunch opens fire. In the "take as many with you
before you die" finale the Bunch kill many Mexicans, especially
when Holden gets his hands on the enemy gatling gun. The graphic,
yet poetic, slow-motion bloodletting makes for one of the most
artful, and gory, gun battles ever put on film.
Rated R for violence. Obviously, this film is
not for those under 17, or those who don't enjoy this kind of
bloody manly man action movie.