My take on The Wild Bunch, reblogged from my Letterboxd list:
The Wild Bunch is one of those mythological Great American Movies that can’t possibly live up to expectations. And the start doesn’t promise much, its static, fussy staging straight out of the television of the era. Sam Peckinpah was a TV veteran, so that makes sense, but he’s aware of the freedom of the big screen, and his eye for subtext is there. The opening shot of children pitting to scorpions against one another is a broad-stroke but appropriate metaphor for the film we’re about to see, where William Holden’s band of outlaws (including a magnetic Ernest Borgnine and the great Warren Oates) slips the clutches of Robert Ryan’s posse of hired goons to do One Last Job, but end up embroiled in some serious political corruption down Mexico way.
As the story moves on and our main protagonists really start feeling the heat, Peckinpah’s direction gets more adventurous, helped by new-wave editing techniques to bring the action alive in the viewer’s mind, and properly evoke the delirium seen on screen. That’s far more remarkable than its supposed reputation for extreme violence; I’ve seen at least one Planet of the Apes movie that’s way more gory, not to mention the graphic death scenes in Bonnie and Clyde released two years previous. The Wild Bunch deserves better in the cinematic canon.
Snowpiercer’s high concept is an interesting one but overstretched across its bloated two-plus hours. Even 90 minutes would be too much for what’s ultimately an obvious satire, lacking the gleeful invective of a Paul Verhoeven to temper the grinding cruelty. And this is a cold, cruel film, strewn with the kind of deliberately awful characters who wind up more annoying than anything. But marks must go to the effectively claustrophobic set design, a light hand when the CGI is required, and some refreshing vérité fight scenes.
Just a beautiful little movie; a low-key drama about the complications of family with a sweet, sentimental but genuine core, and solid performances all round, especially June Squibb as the feisty mom who won’t take crap from anyone.