Making his assured directorial debut with an intelligently entertaining genre piece, Robert Benton takes a decidedly unsentimental view of the frontier myths of male bonding and opportunity for the Western Bad Company (1972). Set during the Civil War, Benton and Bonnie and Clyde (1967) collaborator David Newman's screenplay subtly evokes the Vietnam era in its focus on two young draft dodgers, pious Barry Brown and larcenous Jeff Bridges. Rather than a place of freedom and opportunity, the West they find is an unglamorous prairie wasteland of petty thieves, physical threats, rough justice, and shifting loyalties. Benton maintains a low-key, thoughtful tone occasionally leavened by bits of humor, while Gordon Willis' expressive, autumnal cinematography and Harvey Schmidt's piano score quietly underline the evolution of Brown's upstanding values as he confronts the West's moral relativity. Though not as well-known as such other contemporary revisionist Westerns as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Little Big Man (1970), Bad Company stands as another engaging elegy to the ultimate American myth.