'The Long Riders' [Blu-ray]
(David Carradine, Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine, et al / Blu ray / R / (1980) 2011 / MGM)
Overview: Four sets of acclaimed actor brothers David, Keith and Robert Carradine, James and Stacy Keach, Dennis and Randy Quaid, and Christopher and Nicholas Guest each depict real-life siblings in emotionally charged portrayals of the Old West's legendary bandits.
Blu ray Verdict: I first came across 'The Long Riders' while exploring Walter Hill's more cult oriented films like Hard Times, Streets of Fire and the Warriors. I've also been exploring the western as a genre and was curious to see a more modern filmmaker take a crack at one.
I was intrigued by the gimmick of casting so many groups of real life brothers (the two Keach's as the James Brothers, the two Quaids as the Millers, the three Carradine's as the Younger gang, and the unlikely Guest Brothers as the Fords), and was a little afraid that it would distract my attention from the film.
In fact this stunt casting worked perfectly for me as there was an immediate shorthand between the siblings that made the characters rich without having to spend much time fleshing them out. There's also a surprising lack of ego, with all actors getting pretty equal screentime.
Walter Hill borrows some of the visual panache in the Long Riders from the unglorified anti-violence of Sam Peckinpah, but the film is much more rooted in the 80s style of filmmaking. In fact, I'd say that this flick is the cinematic forefather of films like Young Guns and Tombstone, placing an importance on revisionist history, style and a flair for an extremely entertaining narrative over sticking to genre conventions or the strict facts. That isn't to say that's a bad thing, quite the contrary.
As for its impact on Young Guns, it's surprising how many of little flourishes it borrows from the Long Riders. In the final bank robbery gone bad, Hill utilizes a really striking effect in the sound effects of the bullets zipping across the screen. Whenever a shot is going to connect, there's a special zooming build up to the moment when the bullet strikes that's really stylistic and memorable. Young Guns takes this wholesale in its final sequence as well.
All in all the film plays a little slow, but my only real complaint is that the score can be very distracting at times, drowning out the dialogue and wrecking the intended tone of some of the scenes. There's also a extraneous bit of plot that finds Cole Younger traveling down to Texas to find his on again, off again prostitute lover that ends up in a very goofy knife match between David Carradine and James Remar, complete with a sash gripped between their teeth to keep them within striking distance.
It's very heavy handed and doesn't do much for fleshing out Carradine's already intriguing portrayal of Cole Younger. I think anyone who is a fan of Spaghetti Westerns, the more stylistic entries into the genre of the late '80s, early '90s, or Any of Hills more cultish work will really enjoy this flick. [SMR] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.