47 FILMS: 45. THE LONG RIDERS
In our continuing series of 47 films to see before you are murdered in your dreams we present Walter Hills The Long Riders.
Walter Hill has had a strange career as a director. He’s produced some stone cold classics – 48 Hours, Extreme Measures, Southern Comfort to name a few. He’s directed the first episodes of the TV show Deadwood and was a writer and producer on the Alien franchise. He made Brewster’s Millions for crying out loud. And yet he never seems to get the recognition he deserves. Perhaps this is because some of his best work feels like it’s been influenced by past masters. The Warriors is a New York Clockwork Orange. The Driver has Bullitt written all over it. And The Long Riders is the best Western Sam Peckinpah never made. It also doesn’t help that he’s made some dross like gender realignment thriller The Assignment.
The Long Riders is another telling of the Jesse gang which takes as its gimmick the casting of real life brothers Stacy Keach and James Keach in the leads. Along with Keith Carradine, David Carradine and Robert Carradine as the Younger brothers. Randy Quaid and Dennis Quaid are here. Christopher Guest and Nicholas Guest play the Ford brothers. The overwhelming impressions is people had a lot of brothers in those days.
The story is familiar enough, but Hill films the action brilliantly. A protracted shootout in a town produces a bloodbath worthy of Peckinpah. The sound of the bullets played backwards creates a nightmarish ambience. And unlike Peckinpah there actually seems to be pain in the violence. The performances are all top class though it’s fun to notice which brothers come off best. James Keach has a dead-woodenness that actually suits his role. Soundtrack by Ry Cooder is also fantastic.