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The Long Riders Movie Review

james gang jesse keach

1980 – Walter Hill –

A cult favorite, The Long Riders is a stylistic shoot 'em up, telling the story of the infamous James/Younger gang and starring the Carradine brothers, the Quaids, the Keaches, and the Guest siblings. The film opens with the robbery of a small bank in which Ed Miller (Dennis Quaid) needlessly kills a bystander and is forced out of the gang by Jesse James (James Keach); it culminates with the aftermath of the fabled Northfield, Minnesota, bank robbery in which the Pinkertons outfox the gang and capture most of them. That robbery attempt becomes one of the great cinematic shoot outs, as both the visual and audio components shift into slow motion, permitting ample opportunity to inspect the bullet fest. This technique is somewhat reminiscent of the slow-motion death scenes in The Wild Bunch and countless films influenced by Sam Peckinpah. The James/Younger gang is ambushed in Northfield by the waiting Pinkerton man, Mr. Rixley (James Whitmore, Jr.), who anticipates that they will strike there next. The Long Riders spends much of its first part demystifying the gang members, presenting them as real people with real feelings. After the opening robbery, Jesse expels Ed from the gang for his sloppiness in the killing and leaves him behind on the river bank almost as if Jesse believes his profession to be an honorable one with an unwritten code. Most of the members of the gang have love interests, and the viewer watches as they make believable attempts to create worthwhile lives apart from robbing banks, trains, and stagecoaches. At one point on the train to Northfield, Jesse appears to be reading a Bible. And later he is shown with his children to be a loving and caring father. Such an emphasis creates an odd, almost surrealistic, contradiction of personalities in each one of the outlaws. On the one hand most of them are tender, loving people; on the other, they are all robbers who will steal without remorse and will have to kill to save their own lives.

Cast: James Keach (Jesse James), Stacy Keach (Frank James), David Carradine (Cole Younger), Keith Carradine (Jim Younger), Robert Carradine (Bob Younger), Randy Quaid (Clell Miller), Dennis Quaid (Ed Miller), Christopher Guest (Charlie Ford), Nicholas Guest (Bob Ford), Pamela Reed (Belle Starr), Shelby Leverington (Annie Ralston), Kevin Brophy (John Younger), James Remar (Sam Starr), James Whitmore, Jr. (Mr. Rixley), West Buchanan (McCorkindale), John Bottoms (Mortician) Screenwriter: Bill Bryden, James Keach, Stacy Keach, Steven Smith Cinematographer: Ric Waite Composer: Ry Cooder Producer: Tim Zinnemann for Huka Productions; released by United Artists MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 95 minutes Format: VHS, LV.

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