I could have sworn that I had already provided a review for this quite a while back. Odd.
Anyways, this film, a revisionist western released ate the height of the Vietnam War (with Peckinpah saying there were some parallels, especially with reactions to the content), still manages to be brutal and shocking. This film was meant to be the be-all end-all as far as screen violence was concerned, trying to provide content so graphic that people would stop glorifying violence, and see it for how ugly and awful it truly is.Unfortunatrly, this not only backfired, it caused people to get even more excited about graphic violence, something which greatly disturbed Peckinpah for years after.
The story here is one of a gang out old school outlaws who are struggling to come to terms with the rapidly changing and modernizing world around them. 1913 seemed like a place not for them, and this film shows said gang making their last stand to relive their glory days.
The action is incredibly well done, and some of the shooting and editing techniques were considered quite innovative for the time (but not so much now). The direction is quite sharp, and the amount of blanks and squibs used (especially during the big finale) is absolutely mind-blowing, with rumors going around that more blanks were fired during the filming of this movie than actual bullets were fired during the real Mexican Revolution. I don't know about all of that, but still, it's ridiculous how many bullets are let loose, and how much blood is spilled during the run time.
There is of course a point to all of this. Besides just being a rip-roaring western action film, one can get all academic and stuff, especially concerning the portrayal of violence, the reactions to it, and how it fits into the context of Vietnam and stuff, with all of it earned, and not just shallow attempts to make something academic where it doesn't fit.
The cast are awesome, and include several well knowns, including Ernest Borgnine, who is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the coolest/most bad ass humans/actors/icons this planet has ever seen, or will ever see.
Definitely check this film out. It's awesome. It's violent, it's nuts, it's still shocking, and it is just a great yarn in general. It's also influential as all Hell. I mean, without this, there'd be no John Woo, no Robert Rodriguez, no Quentin Tarantino, and the world of the cinematic shoot-out would be a whole lot different (and not as exciting).