Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Buddy Film, Outlaw (Gunfighter) Film, Revisionist Western  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - Mexico , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

Sam Peckinpah made several meditations on the death of the Old West, but few were ever as minimalist or challenging as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Western fans expecting a kinetic buildup to a dramatic showdown between the title characters will be sorely disappointed: instead, Peckinpah and screenwriter Rudolph Wurlitzer go for a meditative approach where the ultimate fate of the characters is never in doubt, only the way they get there. This lateral approach actually makes for an interesting character study that succeeds thanks to strong performances from James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson; Coburn carries himself with the gravity and mordant humor of someone who knows he is betraying himself by doing the "right" thing, while Kristofferson uses his formidable reserves of charm to make Billy a charming, charismatic antihero. Best of all, Peckinpah brings the film a deep-dish sense of atmosphere and arid beauty, glorifying in the committed individualism of Billy the Kid while mourning how the passage of time made his attitude seem outdated. It's also worth noting that the beguiling mood Peckinpah weaves here is aided considerably by John Coquillion's lush photography and Bob Dylan's moody song score. The end result is a mythic, personalized Western that could have only been created by the one and only Sam Peckinpah. Thus, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is a must for his fans and anyone interested in a good revisionist take on the Old West.