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The Wild Bunch Review

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A band of outlaws find themselves hiding away in Mexico under the influence of a megolomaniac Mexican general. They agree to do a job with him but their loyalites become divided...

★★★★★

UPON ITS 1969 RELEASE SAM Peckinpah's unflinchingly violent portrayal of a group of outlaws led by gunman Pike Bishop (Holden) polarised American audiences, provoking widescale repulsion and documented cases of vomiting in the aisles, while others lavished praise on the tale of honour and betrayal. But after a middling box office, Warner Bros, removed nine minutes.

Ironically, the excised scenes are not violent, but provide background information to the characters, particularly the central relationship between Holden and his former accomplice, Ryan. Their restoration adds much-needed coherence to the rambling but beautiful epic and the remixed soundtrack and colour correction enhance the luxurious feeling of Lucien Ballard's sumptuous camerawork.

The story follows a gang of outlaws who are pursued by bounty hunters to Mexico, where they form an uneasy alliance with General Mapache (Emilio Fernandez), a despotic Mexican bandit. They agree to rob an American munitions train for Mapache, but keep a case of guns for the village gang number, Angel. When Mapache finds this out he takes Angel prisoner, belatedly inspiring the gang to rescue him, and provoking a bloody denouement.

In this, his finest film, Peckinpah captures with poignancy and power his regret at the passing of an era, marshalling superb performances from all his cast, and demonstrating a technical brilliance in his handling of the major set-pieces that only a handful of directors could hope to equal

Rambling but beautiful epic... Superb performances...Captures with poignancy and power regret for a passiing era.