Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Long Riders (1980)

Director: Walter Hill

Starring: David Carradine, Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine, James Keach, Stacy Keach, Dennis Quaid, Randy Quaid, Kevin Brophy, Harry Carey Jr, Christopher Guest, Nicholas Guest, James Remar

More info: IMDb

Tagline: "All the world likes an outlaw. For some damn reason they remember 'em." - Jesse James

Plot: The origins, exploits and the ultimate fate of the Jesse James gang is told in a sympathetic portrayal of the bank robbers made up of brothers who begin their legendary bank raids because of revenge.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

THE LONG RIDERS is different than just about any Western I've ever seen and I've seen a shitload. For starters, there's the casting. You can see that it stars several real-life brothers (all playing brothers of different families). Initially you can assume it's stunt casting and it would be except that it works really well. The chemistry between them is solid (especially between the Carradines and the Keaches) as well as their performances. David Carradine and James Keach come off the best.

Ry Cooder's score breaks away from the orchestral scores we're used to, using more traditional instruments of the period like guitars, mandolins, etc. It's great and works very well with the film and partly because it feels so natural and relaxed which takes me to another great point about this picture. It's very leisurely paced but never dull, not even for a moment. Walter Hill has crafted a damn fine western that's essentially a series of vignettes with several gaps in time, all the while NOT holding your hand telling us it's been 6 months (or longer) since the last scene. You're often left to figure it out...that is if you're paying attention.

The action is fun and the big shootout in slow motion in the final half hour is terrific and well done. And I have to commend the folks behind the sound design during that scene (and the picture). It's strikingly different and effective. I really dug this flick, not only because it's very, very good but for the chances the film makers took and the techniques they employed to make a Western that feels more authentic. Hill paints these outlaws with a broad brush showing you the good, the bad and the ugly side of the Youngers, James' and Millers. It ain't always pretty but it sure is a fun ride.

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