Tuesday, July 7, 2015

AFI Top 100, #80: "The Wild Bunch" (1969)

Movie Stats:
Released 1969 (USA)
American, in English (a lot of Spanish, most of it non-translated; a little bit of non-translated German)
Director - Sam Peckinpah
Stars - William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Emilio Fernandez

Plot Summary:
Pike Bishop (Holden) and Dutch Engstrom (Borgnine), a couple of aging outlaws looking to make one last, big score, team up with “Generalisimo” Mapache (Fernandez) to steal military munitions from a train. Ryan co-stars as Deke Thornton, Pike’s former partner who’s been pressed into service by the train company to chase down Pike.

Graphic violence; mild blue language, including a derogatory term in Spanish; female nudity (very brief butt, a fairly long shot of breasts); heavily implied sexy times.

Bad Stuff:
It’s too long (2 hours, 20 minutes), and I felt every second of it. I know, I know, I sound like a broken record about film length, but a lot of them are honestly just too long and would be better if scenes were shortened or cut out all together. For example, how many times did I need to see them cavorting with prostitutes? Once was enough, really.

Speaking of prostitutes, the misogyny in this film was appalling. Female characters exist literally only to pleasure men. And when they don’t please the men, they get killed. It’s disgusting.

There’s something about the way films were made in the late 1960s/early 1970s that I just don’t like. I don’t understand film terminology well enough to really articulate why. For example, there will be these lingering shots of children looking precocious or frightened or whatever in a way that feels like I’m being bludgeoned over the head with “the point.” And there’s a way that they cut between scenes - mostly into flashbacks in this film - that I find jarring. I don’t know if those examples make sense. Anyway, this movie really felt like a movie of its era in a bad way to me.

Good Stuff:
I enjoyed the friendship between Pike and Dutch.

I liked that the “heroes” are all anti-heroes.

The train heist was pretty nifty.

The Verdict:
It’s not the slowest, most boring, or most racist western I’ve ever seen, but by the end I still had that “that’s nearly two and a half hours of my life I’m never getting back” feeling. With each successive western that I see, I become more and more convinced that they’re not for me. As I was watching it, I got to wondering who the voters were that put the AFI Top 100 together. I did a little digging around and learned that AFI never released their names. Therefore, I’m going to go with my gut instinct and assume that the vast majority of them were older, white gentlemen. If that’s true, I can definitely understand why this movie appealed to them. As a woman born post-1969, however, I found little relatable in it, although I did see a lot that was depressingly familiar (i.e. its disturbing treatment of women). Let’s just say I’m glad to be done with this one. 

I give it 2.5 stars.


Patricia said...

"It’s not the slowest, most boring, or most racist western I’ve ever seen, but by the end I still had that “that’s nearly two and a half hours of my life I’m never getting back” feeling."


The title of this movie always propels Duran Duran's "Wild Boys" into my head, specifically the intro.

Ah Westerns. So many things to dislike. Your discussion of the way women are treated made me think of the Wolf of Wall Street. The theme of women-as-sexual-pleasuring-devices (they weren't even objects, really, just a way for men to get off) really got under my skin during that movie. Although I will always think fondly of the Quaalude scene, which was hilarious.

balyien said...

I still haven't seen "Wolf of Wall Street." Now I'm thinking I don't want to. I still occasionally fume about the treatment of women in "The Wild Bunch." It really bothered me. I don't know if I need to keep poking a stick at that particular hornet's nest, haha.

Patricia said...

Yeah. I remember when Fargo came out and I was talking to someone and she said, "that scene with the woodchipper, it made me swear off violence in movies." And I could totally see where she was coming from, but I also really loved that movie, and that scene. The violence was an okay trade off.

And there are things to like about the Wolf of Wall Street. There are a lot of things. But I can't bring up that movie without pointing out the horrible attitudes towards women. And then I find it weird when people (especially women) shrug it off. But perhaps it's their trade off.