The Shootout At High Noon Marathon crashes onto your computer yet again, and yet again I crash my fist all over Edgar’s face!
Just in case you are new to the way Edgar and I construct our marathons, make sure you go and read his review of The Wild Bunch to follow along with my rebuttal to his thoughts.
It’s interesting Edgar that in your first major point about The Wild Bunch, how much of a traditional Western the film truly is, I both agree and disagree with you. I agree with your take that The Wild Bunch features so many qualities found in the traditional Western that it is itself a traditional Western. But, I also feel Sam Peckinpah tells the tale in a grittier fashion that reminded me of what Spaghetti Westerns were also doing at the time. The Wild Bunch is traditional, but it’s also a deconstruction, and it succeeds in both realms. The area where I disagree with you wholeheartedly is on the topic of loyalty, as I found The Wild Bunch to be a movie about the lack of loyalty shown by these men. But, I touched on that enough in my own review and I am sure you will have something to say about it in your rebuttal.
In your next point you lose me yet again. You speak of William Holden’s complexity as Pike, and I ask, what complexity? I agree that he is a well formed character, but not in the same complex ways you see. Where you see complexity I see a simple character, one founded on his ability to do what he needs to do to get ahead in life. It’s only in the end that he finally makes a change in his life and takes a stand for something other than himself and shows some semblance of complexity. Or does he? Even in his attempt to save Angel I think it’s clear that Pike is acting to serve his own interest. He’s not acting out of a sense of loyalty or a need to be good, but rather a guilty conscience that has finally caught up with him. To me, that’s one key moment that could point to complexity, but because Pike’s still serving what he sees as being the best for him, and his guilty conscience, the complexity you spoke of remains unseen by me.
I wholeheartedly agree with you on Robert Ryan as Deke. I wish the film had explored his character more. Supporting or not I felt Zeke was the most interesting character in the entire film. It makes me wonder why we spent so much time with General Mapache and his exploits. As was pointed out by your friend and mine, Smirnoff, the parts of The Wild Bunch involving the good General are a slog to get through. It irks me a bit that while Robert Ryan is right there with so much great character stuff to unload, Peckinpah insists that we waste our time with the General and his frankly, boring story. This gets into the idea you brought up of world building, an area where I think The Wild Bunch is pretty middling. If not for the moments in Mexico I think Peckinpah would have succeeded in creating a great world. But, those Mexican scenes are a drag and don’t really flesh out any of the characters or their world in a way that couldn’t have been done elsewhere and in better fashion.
The last point you make, regarding the films violence, is another area of contention for me. You wrote that you were left out of breath by the violence, particularly the way that Peckinpah presented it. I didn’t have a problem with the violence in The Wild Bunch, but at the same time I didn’t think it was anything to go crazy over. I actually found the violence Mr. Peckinpah employed to be so stylized that it could never transcend being fun. There’s energy in the way Mr. Peckinpah directed the violence, there’s chutzpah behind his decisions in presenting the violence as so stylized. But, the level of stylization makes the violence hard to take seriously, so much so that I could have fun with it, but not more than that.
I think it’s safe to say that you came away from The Wild Bunch feeling that you had just watched a great movie. I, on the other hand, came away from The Wild Bunch feeling that I had watched a good movie. Not a whole lot separates good from great, but what little space there is between the two can make a world of difference in the opinions one puts forth about the subject in question. We both interpreted this movie quite differently, I was very interested to read how much your take clashed with mine. We both liked the film though, although our level of interest in the film may not match up. Still, I think it’s clear to all the readers that my take is the correct one, don’t you agree, Edgar?
Check out Edgar’s rebuttal at Between The Seats.