47 FILMS: 6. THE WILD BUNCH
More 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams. This episode we tackle the testosterone soaked western epic, The Wild Bunch.
Whenever I meet a movie critic my first question is always, have you seen The Wild Bunch? If they say yes I’ll buy them a drink and they’re a friend of mine for life. If they say no I punch them in the face and tell them to come back to me when they know their f*cking job.
You can’t make a movie like the Wild Bunch any more. Not because the industry isn’t full of talented directors and cinematographers, there’s plenty, but what the industry sorely lacks is hard-living, hard-drinking, leathery men. They’re all too pretty these days, too in touch with their feelings. Warren Oates didn’t have any feelings he lost them in a midnight poker game to a one-armed bear hunter who could breathe cigar smoke through his eyes. Imagine Sam Peckinpah being forced to cast James Franco, he’d have beat the living shit out of him with his own boot and had him dragged by a fast horse all the way back to Hollywood.
For years you could only get hold of a cut version because some guy in a tie on the classification board actually shit themselves when they first saw it. I sympathize, it’s a violent film. Peckinpah intended it to be an allegory for the Vietnam war which was raging at the time. He wanted people to be disgusted by the violence but unfortunately for him and fortunately for us, it is so wonderfully shot that he transmuted the bloody savagery into poetic beauty.
As for the characters, they’re all bad men, you shouldn’t root for any of them but I defy anyone not to feel the urge to applaud when Holden, Johnson, Oates and Borgnine walk like giants towards certain doom.
It’s a movie you can endlessly dissect and plenty has been written about how it explodes the mythology of the old west and how the rise of automated weapons destroyed any semblance of the noble war. It’s the stuff of dissertations but all that aside, it’s a damn good movie that can be enjoyed without turning your brain on.
Is it the best Western ever made? My head says yes, my heart says Once Upon A Time in the West but if you’ve haven’t seen the Wild Bunch, not only are you in for a treat you’ll spare yourself the indignity of being punched in the face by me.
Update: When I posted this out I was informed by a trustworthy source that David O. Russell is preparing to do a remake. Ye Gods.
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