31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Walter Hill's best film -- an unsung classic,
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This review is from: The Long Riders (DVD)
Just as the 80s were beginning and the Western was about to take a sad, decade long sleep, Walter Hill, fresh from his unexpected success with the gang film "The Warriors," turned out this unique and utterly remarkable Western about the James-Younger gang. Using real-life brothers to play the outlaw kin (two Keaches, three Carradines, two Quaids, two Guests), Hill crafts an intense character study that plays like a collaboration between Western great John Ford ("Stagecoach") and Japanese master Akira Kurosawa ("Yojimbo", a film Walter Hill later remade as "Last Man Standing").
"The Long Riders" is close to plotless, but it paints a fascinating picture of the gang and the family and community ties that keep them together (the Ford influence right there...community was his great theme) while delving into the nuances of each character (this is where the fraternal casting really helps out). And Hill acheives all this depth in only 100 minutes! The action sequences are the best in a Western since Sam Peckinpah; the Northfield robbery is particularly striking and brutal.
Aside from Hill and all the great actors, cinematography Ric Waite and composer Ry Cooder deserve special mention for the film's success. Waite creates an authentic "period" look with his deep, glowing photography; the DVD transfer captures this perfectly for the first time. Cooder's score is completely against the grain for the time: small, intimate, and filled with forgotten folk tunes that help paint a picture of a united, family-built community. It is almost a companion piece for David Mansfield's equally intimate score for "Heaven's Gate," released the same year as "The Long Riders."
The DVD has no extras except for a trailer, but the film is so wonderful and so rewards repeat viewings that you should grab a copy of it right away. Believe me, you'll be stunned by this piece of film art.
"I ain't aiming to do nothing...I'm doing it!"