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"If they move, kill 'em!"—Pike Bishop
Suddenly, a new West has emerged. Suddenly, it was sundown for nine men. Suddenly, their day was over. Suddenly, the sky was bathed in blood.
The Wild Bunch is a classic 1969 western directed by Sam Peckinpah. It was quite controversial because of its violence.
Pike Bishop (William Holden) is the leader of a gang of aging outlaws in the twilight of the Wild West. At the beginning of the film, they rob a bank (the page quote is uttered here) and escape to Mexico, but their loot turns out to be worthless. After that, they meet a Mexican warlord, Mapache, who hires them for $10,000 in gold to steal an arms shipment from a U.S. Army train. The gang successfully robs the train, but one of the members, Angel (who is Mexican) sends some of the guns to his own village because he wants his people to have a chance against Mapache. Mapache finds out about the betrayal, so he tortures and kills Angel. The rest of the gang takes revenge, and massacres nearly the entire Mexican garrison, before they are gunned down themselves.
Shockingly violent, gorgeously photographed, brutally cynical, it is perhaps the ultimate deconstruction of The Western, and a true classic of 20th Century filmmaking.
The Wild Bunch contains examples of:
- Anti-Hero: None of the Bunch are what you would call heroes, but we root for them because Mapache is worse in every conceivable fashion.
- Black and Gray Morality
- Blast Out: The ending.
- Bounty Hunter: The gang is pursued by bounty hunters led by Deke Thornton, one of their former members.
- Cigar Fuse-Lighting: Pike uses his cigar to light the fuse on a stick of dynamite when threatening the general.
- Deconstruction: The Western.
- Dry Crusader: the ill-fated temperance rally at the film's beginning.
- End of an Age: This movie is set in the twilight of the Wild West era.
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Dramatic version. First Sykes and Deke laugh then a montage is shown of the now dead gang laughing.
- Evil Versus Evil
- Foreshadowing: lots and lots of it, if you know where to look
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Pike and Dutch. The bounty hunters Coffer and T.C. show signs of being this as well.
- Gatling Good: A Browning machine gun is used by the gang in the final battle.
- I Gave My Word: Deconstructed; when the gang is attacked by Deke Thornton's men, Pike (William Holden) defends Thornton, saying that he gave his word (to the railroad company that hired him). One of the gang members, Dutch (Ernest Borgnine) angrily says that isn't what counts; what counts is who you give it to. William Holden's character has this memorable quote:
"We're gonna stick together, just like it used to be. When you side with a man, you stay with him. And if you can't do that, you're like some animal! You're finished! We're finished! All of us!"
- Ironic Echo / Meaningful Echo: "Get up, you lazy bastard!"
- Kick the Dog: After handing over Angel to Mapache in a tearjerking scene, the next time the Wild Bunch visit Mapache's village, Mapache is using his car to drag the poor guy around in a despicable bit of Cold-Blooded Torture.
- Kill'Em All: Only two named characters survive through the film.
- Mercy Kill: After the failed bank robbery, one mortally wounded gang member asks Pike to kill him. Pike does so before he could even finish the sentence.
- More Dakka: Set in 1913 the characters have access to more than the 6 shooters and lever action Winchesters seen in most westerns. After robbing a Federal armory the Wild Bunch is equipped with .45 automatics, bolt action rifles and pump shotguns. At the end of the film an M1917 machine gun makes an extended appearance, and is the largest contributor to the shootout's massive bodycount.
- New Old West
- One Last Job: The opening heist is supposed to be one. Since it's the first scene in the movie, you can guess how well that turns out.
- Power Walk: Before the final battle.
- Railroad Baron: One hired Deke Thornton.
- Rated "M" for Manly: The whole damn movie.
- Run for the Border: The gang escapes to Mexico after the bank robbery.
- Screaming Warrior: Warren Oates' last stand on the gatling gun.
- Slashed Throat: Angel's death.
- Slow Motion: The final gunfight. Sam Peckinpah loved this trope.
- Sociopathic Hero: Pretty much the whole cast.
- Train Job
- Twilight of the Old West: As stated in the movie's tag line at the top of the page, the Wild West is all but over and the titular characters have outlived their time.
- What a Drag: Angel's torture scene.
- Would Hit a Girl: Angel guns down a cheating girlfriend on their first meeting with Mapache, and during the final battle, Pike is shot in the back by a Mexican prostitute. He shouts "Bitch!" and shoots her in the chest.