May 6, 2019  (Web Review)

Wild Rovers

Warner, 137 min., PG, Blu-ray: $21.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

A couple of years after playing the ruthless leader of The Wild Bunch, William Holden starred as Ross Bodine, an easygoing cowpuncher who impulsively robs a bank with his young buddy Frank (Ryan O’Neal), in this elegiac 1971 Western by Blake Edwards, who was best known for his hit Pink Panther comedies. The robbery goes off without a single injury but they are relentlessly hunted during their escape to Mexico by the sons (Tom Skerritt and Joe Don Baker) of a ranch owner (Karl Malden) who is appalled that any of his hands would commit such a crime. There are brief moments of humor but otherwise Edwards takes a meandering, gentle approach to the direction, letting scenes play out slowly as Ross and Frank ride through the gorgeous landscape (some sequences are shot in Arches National Park and Monument Valley), and he turns a scene of breaking a wild horse into a rousing celebration of frontier triumph. These cowboys aren’t violent by nature but the West can be deadly; a freak accident that kills a fellow ranch hand inspires the robbery, and death and violence can and does erupt suddenly. Wild Rovers straddles realism and myth but is ultimately grounded in the unlikely but unconditional friendship between Ross and Frank. The film was drastically cut by MGM for its initial release, which was poorly reviewed and a financial disappointment. This Blu-ray release features the restored 137 minute cut, and the additional scenes not only strengthen the relationship between the cowboys but also lets the odyssey play out at a measured pace. Presented with an overture, intermission break with entr’acte, and exit music, extras include an archival “making-of” featurette. Recommended. (S. Axmaker)