Ross Bodine and Frank Post are cowhands on Walt Buckman's R-Bar-R ranch. Bodine is older and broods a bit about how he will get along when he's too old to cowboy. Post is young and rambunctious and ambitious for a better life than wrangling cows. When one of their fellow cowboys is killed in a corral accident, Post suggests a way into a better life for himself and his friend: robbing a bank. Bodine reluctantly joins in the plan and the two contrive to rob the local bank. They make good their escape initially, but Walt Buckman and his two sons, John and Paul, are incensed at this betrayal by their own trusted employees. John and Paul set out to bring Bodine and Post to justice.
A reflective gem of an Oater. Wild Rovers is written and directed by Blake Edwards. It stars William Holden, Ryan O'Neal, Karl Malden, Joe Don Baker, Tom Skeritt and James Olsen. Music is scored by Jerry Goldsmith and the Panavision/Metrocolor cinematography is by Philip Lathrop. It's a Western that not only was butchered by cretinous execs at MGM, but has also proved to be divisive among the Western faithful - those that have seen the now thankfully available un-butchered version that is. Wild Rovers is one of those Oaters that is very much concerned with the changing of the West, where cowboys start to find themselves out of place with their era. Think Monte Walsh/Will Penny/Ride The High Country, with a bit of Wild Bunch/Butch & Sundance thrown in for good measure, and you get where Wild Rovers is at. Some critics were quick to accuse Edwards of merely copying Western films of past, but that is unfair. For this is a loving homage to those movies, also managing to be its own beast in the process. The tale is simply of two cowpokes, one aged and world weary, the other a young excitable buck, best friends who want more from life, so decide to rob the local bank and flee to Mexico to start afresh. Of course two men and destiny are quite often not the best of bed fellows... There's an elegiac beauty to Edwards' screenplay, with some of the scripted dialogue lyrical and poetic. And yet even though the harshness of the West, of the life of a cowboy, and the violence that is abound, is deftly pulsing within the story, there's plenty of dashes of humour as well. This is not a perpetually downbeat movie, slow moving? Absolutely, short on ripper action? Also correct. But as the themes of heroism and honour, of friendship and folly, are born out, and the many tender sequences draw you in, a pratfall is never far away. Technically it's high grade stuff. Holden is superb and he drags O'Neal along with him to avert what could have been a casting disaster. They make a fine and beguiling partnership and both men are turning in some of their best ever work here. The photography of the Arizona locations is outstanding, with Lathrop (Lonely Are the Brave) managing to add some ethereal beauty to the story. Goldsmith knocks out a triffic score, part blunderbuss Western excitement, part intimate pal to all and sundry. Skip any version that is under two hours, for that is an MGM crime. The MOD DVD comes complete with overture, intermission, entr'acte and exit music, while TCM shows the uncut version but minus the aforementioned roadshow segments. This is not a Western for those looking for a Magnificent Seven style actioner, for as fun as that great movie is, this is an altogether different and mature beast, and it deserves to be better known. 9/10