Country: United States
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Starring: James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan, Katy Jurado
Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is an amazingly lyrical and melancholy western. It's one of many goodbye letter to the western genre, which was declining throughout the 70s. This was Peckinpah's last western film, before he went into an even greater depression. This picture is his tombstone, his legacy and his goodbye. For those of you who don't know the story about Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. It's based on real events and is probably the most famous western tale of them all. It takes place in New Mexico in the early 1880s. It's about two best friends, Pat (James Coburn) and Billy (Kris Kristofferson) both outlaws. But one day a twist of fate occurs when Pat is elected Sheriff of Lincoln County. He's first assignment is to catch Billy the Kid, dead or alive. How will he find the strength to kill his best friend? How could he sell himself to the greater capitalistic powers?
Even though the actors in the film is way older than the characters they portraying where in real life. In reality Billy the Kid was only 21 at the time of his death. He is played by the 37-years-old Krisrofferson. And Pat Garrett who was just 30 at that time, is portrayed by 45-years-old Coburn with gray hair. Probably is the whole cast least over 35. Why did Peckinpah cast such an old cast. I tell you why. Because of the time this movie is made in the 70s where the western genre was nearly extinct and it began to be old. The movie portrays a society where the old outlaw west is declining. but there still some old foxes who tries to hold on to the past (Peckinpah was one of them). What better way of showing this then show old people who have lived the life and thinks it's time to grow up. And who in our society is still children? Rock singers. Like most rappers today is fit to play any form of gangsters, is rock singers the most suited to play outlaws because of their hate towards the society and their short but troubled journey through life.
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid feels very authentically inset of characters of the old west, the locations, the sets, the landscape and the fading wallpapers. You can almost feel the dust coming at you, just like in The Wild Bunch. There also a lot of the good all western character actors, such as Katy Jurado, Chill Wills, R.G. Armstrong, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones and Harry Dean Stanton. Their present makes this a secure film. I feel happy, all saying a last farewell, and one by one is taken down in western style.
I know that I defended Kristofferson's performance, but Bob Dylan's by the way is far more difficult. He playing one of Billy's closest outlaw friends who goes under the named Alias, alias anything you like. This is a pretty unstable performance by Dylan. He has no spirit in his voice, he doesn't try to act. Today this could might as well been a Razzie award worthy performance. But I can give one good argument of why I think this is a good performance. It's simple, he is a character without no spirit. He used to be a black smith and when he finally saw Billy escaping from prison Alias decides he should escape from his boring life as well. He was in reality a shy person that never stood up for anything until that moment. And don't tell me shy people doesn't exist. So why not expose them to the pictures? It takes time of a shy person to shake of his shyness.
I almost forget the main character in this film. James Coburn as Pat Garrett is simply his best performance in his entire career. His character goes through a rough transformation from being a free outlaw to become the law which is cold and inhuman. His transformation starts when he decides to grow his famous mustache. He begin as a healthy man, always happy. But as the pressure on catching Billy grows stronger, makes him want to forget the whole state of mind by drinking his problem away. One scene that is interesting is when Pat walks into a bar and force every one in the bar to act violent toward each other as they use to before. There's no problem for Pat to catch the Kid, but for how long can he postpone his destiny. The ending is just so emotional loaded and I can't remember the last time I was so moved by a film.
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