Classic Movie Review: The Wild Bunch (1969)


Title: The Wild Bunch
Release Date: June 18, 1969
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Production Company: Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
Summary/Review:

The Wild Bunch tells one of the most familiar stories in film history. A group of aging outlaws lead by Pike Bishop (William Holden) and his sidekick Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine) try for one last score with a heist of silver from the railroad.  The heist is a bust and soon the surviving members of the Wild Bunch find themselves on the run over the border into Mexico pursued by Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan), a former member of the gang now deputized by the railroad company as a bounty hunter.

The big difference between The Wild Bunch and earlier Westerns is that in 1969 the production code is no more.  Expletives are shouted, womens’ breasts are bared, and every bullet shot hits its target with an explosion of flesh and blood. (Previously all I knew about Sam Peckinpaugh was from a Monty Python sketch which I thought was exaggerating the blood and gore, but now I know better). A bigger change from earlier Hollywood is that all moral certitude is gone as the gang of anti-heroes does what they need to do to survive.

The Wild Bunch is essentially the template followed by action-adventure films for the ensuing 50 years.  It feels like an oddball among the other movies on the AFI 100 list but I can see it deserving a shot for being an influence.  And while this isn’t a movie I particularly enjoyed, it was worth watching it once.

Rating: ***

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