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The Wild Bunch

Year: 1969
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Writer: Sam Peckinpah
Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Alfonso Cuaron
I think you have to love Westerns to love this movie as much as I know many do. From the point of view of someone who doesn't, it ticks off many of the early stalwarts of the genre as well as injecting thrilling new ones into it, not the least of which is the considerable bloodletting and brutality for a film from the late sixties.

Part of the mystique of the film is the presence of the legendary Sam Peckinpah, an easy rider and raging bull long before Tarantino and his modern ilk - often allegedly drunk or stoned on set and a combative presence to everyone around him.

William Holden and Ernest Borgnine headline a gang of career robbers who've nearly had enough. Factional tensions are rising in the gang, and after a bad set-up, their numbers are depleted considerably. When they get wind of a shipment of weapons crossing the panhandle by train bound for the newly strengthening army, they decide to hit it and retire off the proceeds.

Meanwhile, a former gang member has been press-ganged into service by the law into tracking them down, dragging a motley collection of thugs after him. And on the other side, a Mexican militia to whom they intend to sell their loot will be only too glad to stab them in the back.

The deal done, they leave a man behind, a native who was determined to deliver at least some of the cache into the hands of his people to fight back against the very customers the gang are selling to.

When they stride into town to make their final stand and demand their friend back, all hell breaks loose and one of cinema's great gunfights erupts.

Part of the appeal of the film is the moral greyness - the 'heroes' willing to leave their compatriot behind or put a bullet in each others' backs for the upper hand, their members a shifting dynamic with the unshakable friendship between Bishop and Duke the only constant.

Like other films in the genre gave us the iconic image of two men facing each other in a dusty street, hands ready to spring to their six guns, this gave us 'the walk' - the slo-mo march of the heroes into the action you've seen a million times.

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