The Wild Bunch (1969)

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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Sam Peckinpah's controversial revisionist Western takes place in Texas and Mexico in 1913, a transitional year when the Old West was giving way to the New West. The titular outlaw bunch, headed by ethical-in-his-fashion Pike (William Holden), continues staging violent bank robberies in their old, time-honored tradition. After a particularly brutal holdup in the town of San Rafael, the gang -- or what's left of it -- heads for the hills of Mexico, pursued by a posse led by Thornton (Robert Ryan), an old friend of Pike's. The gang discovers that the bank had been set up to be robbed by Thornton's railroad-executive boss Pat Harrigan (Albert Dekker), and that their booty consists of worthless metal washers. Meanwhile, the conscience-stricken Thornton seethes over Harrigan's scheme, which has cost too many innocent lives, but he is powerless to leave the railroad baron's employ lest he be sent back to jail. While hiding out in a Mexican village, the gang is engaged by corrupt general Emilio Fernandez to steal a huge shipment of guns from the U.S. Army. Like Thornton, Pike agrees against his will: his right-hand man Jaime Sanchez is being held hostage by Fernandez, who in turn is being manipulated by a pair of war-mongering German officers. More violence -- both justified and gratuitous -- follows, leading to a final blood-spattered confrontation between the Wild Bunch and 's posse. For many years, no one audience was privy to a "definitive" version of The Wild Bunch. Peckinpah's 144-minute director's cut was butchered by Warner Bros. after its first press showing (curiously, the studio removed not only the gorier scenes, but also several motivational sequences, rendering much of the film incomprehensible). The 1981 reissue was restored to 141 minutes, but it wasn't until the advent of home video that the complete version was once more made available. Once considered the last word in cinematic bloodletting, The Wild Bunch is a model of decorum compared to what was to follow.
Rating:
R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Genre:
Action & Adventure , Drama , Western
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Warner Bros. Pictures

Cast

William Holden
as Pike Bishop
Ernest Borgnine
as Dutch Engstrom
Robert Ryan
as Deke Thornton
Warren Oates
as Lyle Gorch
Ben Johnson
as Tector Gorch
L.Q. Jones
as T.C.
Albert Dekker
as Pat Harrigan
Bo Hopkins
as Crazy Lee
Dub Taylor
as Mayor Wainscoat
Jorge Russek
as Lt. Zamorra
Alfonso Arau
as Herrera
Chano Urueta
as Don José
Sonia Amelio
as Teresa
Aurora Clavel
as Aurora
Bill Hart
as Jess
Fernando Wagner
as German Army Officer
Enrique Lucero
as Ignacio
Pedro Galvan
as Benson
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Wild Bunch

All Critics (49) | Top Critics (15)

It's a traumatic poem of violence, with imagery as ambivalent as Goya's.

Full Review… | March 27, 2016
New Yorker
Top Critic

Arguably the strongest Hollywood movie of the 1960s -- a western that galvanizes the clichés of its dying genre with a shocking jolt of delirious carnage.

Full Review… | April 29, 2013
Village Voice
Top Critic

In an era when body-count films mirror the mounting body count offscreen, The Wild Bunch dissects death rather than glorifying it.

Full Review… | April 29, 2013
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

The Wild Bunch is an American masterpiece, one of the greatest films ever produced in the Hollywood system.

Full Review… | April 29, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

It is certainly one of the best westerns ever made, and the best film of any kind to come out in 1969.

Full Review… | April 29, 2013
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

It's a towering achievement that grows more riveting and resonant with the years.

Full Review… | April 29, 2013
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Wild Bunch

Raw, intense, visceral and gritty are just some of the few words that describe Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, which ranks among the finest Westerns ever made. The film features an all star cast of talented actors who light up the screen in the classic film. Every actor brings something terrific to the screen that elevates the plot significantly. Under Peckinpah's kinetic direction, The Wild Bunch is an action packed Western that is one of the finest in the genre. Peckinpah, like Sergio Leone before him, helped shape the Western film in a way that was both brutal, yet beautiful. Peckinpah had a flair for crafting pictures that really raised the bar in the way violence was presented, and in doing so, he broke new ground in what you could do in the cinematic medium. Set near the end of the Old West, when the country is being modernized in first years of the 20th Century, the film follows a group of aging outlaws out for one last score. The story is simple, but it works to the film's advantage because it doesn't overcomplicate things, the film uses the performances to elevate the films story. The result is impressive and in turn The Wild Bunch is a superb and accomplished picture that ranks among the finest Westerns ever made. With a great cast at his disposal, Sam Peckinpah does what he does best, and that's to make a riveting, violent and highly thrilling picture that has all of the director's trademarks that has made his work standout. In terms of sheer entertainment, The Wild Bunch succeeds on every level, with memorable performances, tense, well executed action; this is a blistering Western that is ranks among the finest of the genre. Sam Peckinpah knew how to get the most out of a simple concept, and that's exactly the case with this movie. Highly engaging from start to finish, this is a thrilling picture that delivers on all fronts, and it's a movie made with that raised the bar of what you could do in the genre.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

A tale of unfaltering masculinity in an era of change, Sam Peckinpah's 'The Wild Bunch' is a masterfully crafted deviation from the conventional western. Initially following the titular criminals as they rob, murder and brutalize a town for personal gain the film's protagonists are shown as unrelenting and cold-blooded, this is soon altered, however, and the film's theme of change (both politically and morally) is reflected by the audience's perception of the bunch as they are subjected to the benevolence and brotherhood prominent within them over the two and a half hour running time. Aesthetically 'TWB' adheres to the iconography common to the genre, dirty characters inhabit the beautiful landscapes and the fight between America and Mexico acts as a political backdrop, cementing the globalism of the film's ideologies in a realistic nature and adding a sense of authenticity to the plot. At its core 'The Wild Bunch' is quintessentially about camaraderie against all odds, and the thoughtful visual metaphors throughout, such as a scorpion being overwhelmed by red ants, do not seem out of place or overly obvious amongst the intrigue and action that keeps the film above entertaining throughout.

Cameron Sherwell
Cameron Sherwell

Super Reviewer

½

Sam Peckinpah's eulogy to the old west is regarded as something of a classic of the genre. One of the most striking things about this film is the total lack of a "good guy vs. bad guy" mentality, something Peckinpah made clear right from the opening scene when Holden's men arrive dressed as soldiers, seemingly about to be ambushed by outlaws. But everything is not as it seems. Holden and his gang are a bunch of outlaws and thieves but operate with loyalty and a code of honour. Robert Ryan, an ex-partner, heads a pack of bounty hunters hunting them down who act like the vultures picking through the trail of corpses they leave behind. Boasting not one, but two of the most spectacular shoot outs ever committed to celluloid, the final scenes redefine the word "bloodbath" and make a John Woo set piece look like a Sunday school picnic. It does sag a little in the middle when there's one too many scenes involving tequilas and trumpets, but otherwise an essential addition to the collection for fans of the old fashioned western.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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