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The Wild Bunch

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Critics appraising a reissued ”masterpiece” sometimes review the reputation instead of the film, and Sam Peckinpah’s genre-bending Western The Wild Bunch certainly inspires such temptation. Restored to its original 145 minutes, this ultraviolent chronicle of aging outlaws planning one last haul made the use of slo-mo violence de rigueur for a generation of filmmakers. It seemed more powerful in theaters during the Vietnam era — as part of pop culture’s fashionable nihilism — than it now does on small screens, where image reduction due to letterboxing renders some sequences incomprehensible. Ultimately, though, Peckinpah’s sure directorial hand, solid scripting, and distinguished cast make The Wild Bunch engrossing entertainment. B+