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Reviewed February 4th, 2002 by David Nusair


Thereís no doubt that upon its release in the late Ď60s, The Wild Bunch mustíve been like a shot of adrenaline for moviegoers. Filled to the brim with bloody violence and wanton acts, the movie certainly represented a dirtier and more realistic Western than audiences were used to. Gone were the deaths represented by a wincing clutch of the chest; replaced instead by spurting blood and elaborately staged death sequences. Perhaps it was because of this innovative filmmaking style that audiences and critics alike were able to look past the routine storyline and uninteresting characters Ė but viewing the film today, itís impossible to do so.

William Holden and Ernest Borgnine star as two friends looking to pull off one last heist before calling it quits Ė in the old west. As the movie opens, they (along with their posse, of course) are in the process of escaping from a successful bank robbery, when they find themselves under attack in all directions. After a bloody encounter, they manage to escape but are soon being pursued by a determined bounty hunter that just happens to have a grudge against Holden. Itís then that the gang decides to call it a day Ė after one more job. However, this job turns out to be far deadlier than any of them had anticipatedÖ

The Wild Bunch moves at a snails pace and contains not one compelling character. After the initial bank heist, the film essentially becomes one long journey, as the gang works their way through Mexico to their final destination Ė the base of a ruthless leader. Ordinarily, a movie would use this time to take us into the pasts of the various characters and maybe even throw in a wacky detour or two. But not The Wild Bunch; instead, we get sequences in which the characters (which we really couldnít care less about) lament about their poor career choice.

Though the action is good (and quite bloody), The Wild Bunch isnít quite the classic itís been built up to be.

Audio: This DD 5.1 soundtrack is pretty impressive, especially consider the movie is over 30 years old. The various gun battles are booming, and will certainly make it seem as though you are under siege.

Video: This non-anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer is pretty good, but doesnít appear to have been cleaned up enough. Film grain and other random film-related artifacts are rampant here, but to be fair, this is certainly a huge step above the various tape transfers that have been released for this movie over the years.

Extras: The most prominent extra here is a 30-minute making of documentary. And although there are a number of interesting and informative moments (such as how that famous long-walk-to-their-doom moment was conceived), the doc takes a most bizarre route in its presentation; rather than show us any of the people being interviewed, itís all voice-over. We see stills of the production, while an assistant to William Holden speaks. We never actually get to see any of these people talking. This unprecedented method gets very irritating very fast. But other than that unusual faux pas, this is a good little documentary. Finally, thereís some production notes, along with a list of what material was re-inserted into this edition.

Conclusion: The Wild Bunch is worth a look, for curiosityís sake Ė just donít expect the classic itís always touted as being.


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