18. Wild Bunch (1969) Movie Review: Because the old west myth had to die

by Banned Library in


A man in a white hat on horseback saving the locals from a gang of evil black hats. That's the image of the west, of John Wayne and heroes, until Sam Peckinpah destroyed it. All it took was two hours and change and all the bullets in Mexico.

    It's just around World War I and the old west is dying. A group of outlaws with a code, the Wild Bunch, are robbing banks and escaping to Mexico. Two men oppose them, an ex-member of the gang hired by the railroad and a general of the Mexican army with a violent side. From the opening bank robbery gone wrong to the ending bullet-filled spectacle, the Wild Bunch caused a turn in our national obsession with violence by turning the dial way up.

    We follow the Wild Bunch as a dangerous group of men, not the heroes of yore. The first scene we see, the bank robbery, shows the men threatening everyone there to die. The town shoot out that follows continues this. Men and women die at random, children clutch each other in the street. The chase of sex and violence that continues the narrative hammers home the death of the heroic ideal, acted brilliantly by Holden, Borgnine, and the rest as aging outlaws coming to their end.

    Best viewed on a large screen, see this movie however you can. Modern audiences may see it as tame compared to modern violence (there are no robots destroying cities), but the strong characters and melancholy on the production reaches across the decades.