Wild Rovers (1971)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Buddy Film  |   Run Time - 109 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

One's reaction to Wild Rovers may very well depend upon which version one sees: the original release or the director's cut. Neither version is perfect, but the latter, while longer and in some places a bit slow, is preferable. Rovers is a good buddy/Western picture, one in the anti-hero vein of the 1960s and 1970s. Filmmakers were revisiting the Western at this time, taking some of the basics but twisting them to surprise viewers, and Rovers belongs to this tradition. Unfortunately, unlike such other examples as The Wild Bunch, Rovers is more interested in surface details than in deeper meanings. Director Blake Edwards turns in some of his finest work, keeping a lightness of tone that is familiar to viewers of his work, but working in an unfamiliar genre, and the results are pleasing. If he doesn't dig far enough into his characters, either as director or as writer, he still presents them in a fine showcase. He's also quite fortunate to have William Holden, entering the autumn of his career, to turn in a powerful, rock solid performance that mixes melancholy, wistfulness, stubbornness and orneriness to great effect. As his partner, Ryan O'Neal is in over his head, but there is a definite chemistry between the two stars, and that helps. Karl Malden is also notable as their nemesis, and the supporting cast in general is strong. Despite its flaws, Rovers has a subtle charm that lingers and that makes one appreciate the film's assets.