I’ll never forget the first time I saw The Wild Bunch. It was a gloomy Saturday afternoon and I was still recovering from a night of heavy drinking when flipping through the channels I stumbled upon it. The opening credits were still rolling so I decided to stick with it. And yes kids, that’s how things worked back in ancient history, you couldn’t play what you want when you wanted but had to count on good luck. For the next two and a half hours, I was transfixed to the screen with only one thought running through my mind: This is the best western movie I have ever seen…
It was delightfully subversive and nihilistic, unlike all the cool and morally uptight mainstream movies. I mean, we’re following a gang of dangerous outlaws for fucks sake. It’s part of a sub-genre known as Revisionist Westerns, where the usual rules simply go out of the window. This is it, this is what we need in today’s Twilight world. There are no pumped, half-naked guys, no pretty girls, just life. And I know that this is just hormones talking, along with the tribal system of values, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow. With your gut feeling. And my gut was telling me that The Wild Bunch is one hell of a movie.
This story about an aging group of robbers in the wild west is a true masterpiece, coming from a great director Sam Peckinpah. It marks the end of the familiar Wild West in all its dirty and grimy glory. And it also represents, in a broader sense, the age-old clash between the old and the new. The old must make way for the new and the only thing that the old can do is to go out with a bang. This nihilistic release of energy resonates well with our whole life predicament. To quote the great Rust Cohle: “…brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal”. And I would also add another quote, this time from Highlander: “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away”.
Now if that doesn’t make you reach for that bottle of Jim Beam that’s been sitting in your drink cabinet, I don’t know what will. I’m sure that you all heard about the last scene, the cherry on the top of this beautiful cake. I’m not going to go into details about it’s most definitely worth waiting for. And that’s what I did, at least on one occasion, played the entire movie just to see that glorious finale.
On the other hand, the opening scene with children torturing scorpions perfectly sets the stage for what’s about to follow. A thorough exploration of violence, masculinity, the meaning of life, and just general inquiry into morality. The storytelling is tight and engaging but above all, it’s fucking immersive. So, get your copy of The Wild Bunch, have a bottle of your favorite whiskey and cigarettes ready, and wait. Wait for the perfect opportunity to witness this Western epic.
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Writers: Walon Green, Sam Peckinpah(screenplay)Roy N. Sickner
Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones
Fun Stuff: More blank rounds were discharged during the production than live rounds were fired during the Mexican Revolution of 1914 around which the film is loosely based. In total 90,000 rounds were fired, all blanks.