Sam Peckinpah’s eulogy to the old west is regarded as something of a classic of the genre.
One of the most striking things about this film is the total lack of a “good guy vs. bad guy” mentality, something Peckinpah made clear right from the opening scene when William Holden’s men arrive dressed as soldiers, seemingly about to be ambushed by outlaws; but everything is not as it seems. Holden and his gang are a bunch of outlaws and thieves but operate with loyalty and a code of honour. Robert Ryan, an ex-partner, heads a pack of bounty hunters hunting them down who act like the vultures picking through the trail of corpses they leave behind. Boasting not one, but two of the most spectacular shoot outs ever committed to celluloid, the final scenes redefine the word “bloodbath” and make a John Woo set piece look like a Sunday school picnic.
The story does sag a little in the middle when there’s one too many scenes involving tequilas and trumpets, but otherwise an essential addition to the collection for fans of the old school western.