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The Case of Hana and Alice by director Shunji Iwai is a high school drama feature that again, overuses CG to an extent that makes its characters look stiff and lifeless. Nevertheless, the film enjoys its fair share of good storytelling that goes hand-in-hand with the best thrillers in said high school drama genre, and for this: The Case of Hana and Alice it’s worth for at least a viewing or two. Or perhaps three in total. ... Read full review »
This movie really was a game-changer. No previous western had been so unflinchingly gory, apart from "Django" and its even more outrageous quasi-sequel "Django Kill!", both of which were banned throughout the English-speaking world, and in most other places too. But this film has none of the bizarre stylistic flourishes and impossible gunplay that divorce spaghetti westerns from reality. In a tale based very loosely on the exploits of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, whose gang really was called the Wild Bunch, ... see more middle-aged outlaws living in the last days when the west was truly wild have to accept the fact that they're obsolete. Unfortunately, the final bank job that was meant to provide for their retirement doesn't go entirely according to plan, and we're very soon treated to our first sight of technology that truly shocked audiences in 1969 - the squib and blood-bag that allow bullet-wounds to spurt copious amounts of gore. In the course of the movie we shall see a great deal of this, often in slow motion. If that's all there was to "The Wild Bunch", those critics who at the time dismissed it as cowboy torture porn would have been right. But that's not really the point of it at all. The violence has to be realistically ugly to remind us that killing other people isn't glamorous or fun, and is very seldom heroic; right from the start, innocent bystanders tend to get fatally caught up in shoot-outs. The "heroes" are selfish, ruthless villains who are all to some degree evil, or at least willing to do evil things. And some are more willing than others. Yet they have a strange kind of decency, and there are lines they won't cross. In particular, their sometimes fragile but in the end absolute loyalty to each other is, as William Holden at one point states explicitly, what separates them from animals. It's also what separates them from their less honorable counterparts, the barely human bounty hunters who pursue them throughout the film. This ugly mob are the movie's biggest flaw; comical grotesques like these belong in a far less serious and realistic western. But otherwise, the acting is almost universally excellent, as is the characterization. Even the repulsive megalomaniac "General" Mapache is given a scene where we see him at his best, and understand why hundreds of men are willing to fight and perhaps die for this alcoholic buffoon. What matters is that the film passes the acid test of good fiction about bad people; you don't like them, but you care what happens to them. That's not an easy thing for either a writer or an actor to achieve. Neither is making Django look like a wimp, but the apocalyptic final showdown manages that too. It's ultra-violent and extremely macho, so it isn't for everybody, but it's one of the most important westerns ever made, and in any genre a truly great film.
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