In an allegory for a society torn apart by political assassinations, race riots and the Vietnam War, Sam Peckinpah revitalized the western and helped to usher the genre into a post-modern era with The Wild Bunch. In 1913, a gang of aging outlaws, headed by Pike Bishop (William Holden), gathers for one last score along the border. Once their mission goes awry, they join the corrupt Gen. Mapache (Emilio Fernández, iconic director of Mexico’s Golden Age of film), the leader of a marauding band of federales, in his scheme to steal a weapons shipment from a U.S. Army train. When this attempt goes wrong, a bloody shoot-out ensues. The film’s nihilistic violence, Peckinpah claimed, would “help get war and killing out of our collective system.” Obviously, that didn’t happen, but in the process, he created a brutal masterpiece.
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