• Long Riders, The

    Released by: MGM
    Released on: 6/7/2011
    Director: Walter Hill
    Cast: David Carradine, Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine, Steacy Keach, James Keach
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    The best Sam Peckinpah movie that Sam Peckinpah didn’t make has to be Walter Hill’s The Long Riders. Made in 1980, the film stars David, Keith and Robert Carradine as Cole, Jim and Bob Younger respectively and tells of their exploits riding alongside infamous outlaw Jesse James (James Keach) and his brother Frank (Stacey Keach). Along for the ride are Ed and Clell Miller, played by Randy and Dennis Quaid respectively. It might all seem like novelty casting but it works and it works well.

    If you’re at all familiar with the story of Jesse James, his gang, his exploits, and his eventual demise than you know the basic story that the film covers. When it begins the gang is in the midst of a bank robbery and when Ed Miller winds up killing a man without proper reason, he’s kicked out of the group. The gang heads home to take it easy for a while and Cole heads to the great state of Texas for a spell to hang out with his girlfriend, a hooker named Belle Starr (Pamela Reed). They all know it’s only a matter of time before they get back together, however and once they do they head to Northfield, Minnesota, to take down a bank they’ve heard is quite flush with deposits. What should be an easy job turns out to be a horrible mistake, and when things really hit the fan it’s only a matter of time until the James Gang’s days are numbered.

    Like Peckinpah before him, here Hill is taking on the stereotypes of the old west and not so much romanticizing them as exploring them in a more realistic fashion. The film doesn’t glamorize the outlaw lifestyle, instead it paints the different members of the James Gang as all too human and prone to make mistakes just as anyone else is. As is common with Hill’s films, there’s some stylish violence, much of it in slow motion, but here the violence carries with it some solid emotional impact thanks to the fact that the script does a great job of fleshing out the characters enough that we get to know them, if not necessarily like them or sympathize with them (these are career criminals after all).

    Fairly grim in its take on the story, but rightfully so, the movie is tense and slick and only as violent as it needs to be. It’s a tough film to be sure, but the performances are strong from start to finish from all involved and the movie isn’t without periodic moments of tenderness which help to humanize the characters. The novelty casting of the real life brothers in the role of their historical counterparts succeeds where it could have seemed goofy and corny, the film winds up having a very palpable sense of camaraderie to it, with the themes of friendship, kinship and loyalty climbing like vines throughout the narrative. Nice attention to detail and rock solid production values help the film to looks its best while a fairly minimalist soundtrack lets the story speak louder than any trumped up emotional impact the score could possibly hope to provide. All in all, it’s a pretty damn impressive picture and one of the more sorely underrated westerns of its day.


    The Long Riders arrives on Blu-ray in a good AVC encoded 1.85.1 1080p high definition widescreen transfer. There’s definitely some softness inherent in the source material and this is quite noticeable at certain times throughout the movie, but the disc is well encoded even if it could have used a bit more cleanup work to remove some of the obvious dirt and debris. Colors do look quite good, nice and natural, and black levels are fine. Not a perfect picture but a good one and better than what DVD could provide by a wide margin.

    Audio chores are handled by a DTS-HD 2.0 mix, in English, with standard DTS 5.1 Surround Sound mixes offered in French, German, Spanish and Italian. Subtitles are provided in English SDH, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish. The quality of the lossless track is fine. If this isn’t a particularly remarkable mix it still sounds pretty decent, offering powerful gun shots during the shoot outs and a nice sounding score alongside well balanced dialogue.

    Sadly, the disc falls short in the extra features department, offering only the film’s theatrical trailer (in HD), menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    One of Hill’s finest films doesn’t get the special edition that it rightfully deserves but at least gets a pretty solid audio and video upgrade on its Blu-ray debut from MGM.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      I really enjoyed this film.
    1. Nolando's Avatar
      Nolando -
      Ha - forgot that James Remar shows up in this.

      I like your opening gambit here. Tho', for my money, I think Extreme Prejudice is more Peckinpah than Hill but, I suppose, it's more an homage/remake there rather than something a bit more original on his part.