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.
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In our continuing series of ’47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams’, we look at Walter Hill’s blood soaked border Western Extreme Prejudice.
Walter Hill has often been a director somewhat overlooked. His made a series of successful action movies, but there’s often the sense that he is too often written off as a meer action director. And yet a filmmaker who produce films as varied in scope as After Hours, The Long Riders, Southern Comfort and Brewster’s Millions, as well as having a large hand in the Alien series, obviously has more chops than your average second unit action guy.
Extreme Prejudice came out in 1987, the year after 48 Hours and starred Nick Nolte as a tough guy Texan peace officer Jack Benteen, who alongside his buddy sheriff (Rip Torn) is running in drug smugglers as his old boyhood friend Cash (Powers Boothe) sends them across from Mexico. There’s a shared girlfriend (Maria Conchita Alonso) between them as well and, to further complicate matters, a black ops squad are setting up a bank robbery to procure evidence against Cash. The team of ex-soldiers is led by Michael Ironside’s snake eyed Major… whoa! Stop there. Just look at this cast. Nolte, Ironside, Boothe, Torn and you can add to those Clancy Brown and William Forsythe as black ops men. The film has huge testosterone sweat patches and lines which are so much spoken as bitten off and spat out: ‘If you see the Major kill him. Kill him like an animal.’
The set pieces are great even if the plot gets so convoluted at times you get the feeling that no one is actually paying attention any longer. It doesn’t quite have the melancholy poetry of Peckinpah – in fact its Boothe’s doomed king pin who is the most Peckinpah-esque – but a blood bath is inevitable and suitably thorough.