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The Long Riders [DVD]
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on 18 March 2014
I was recommended this title by someone in awe of the 'sensational' casting. Yes tis' true, four sets of brothers star in the film but that's the most note-worthy aspect of this very slow and very empty western.

There is a profoundly dull and completely pointless sub-plot involving a hooker and one of the Younger brothers (David Carradine) that seems to exist solely as a precursor to a knife fight. This whole story takes up a great deal of the film's running time, which should give you an idea of the vapid sense of plotting.

There appear to be some half-baked allusions to the nature of loyalty and betrayal, but it really doesn't go anywhere. The characters are so uninteresting and unsympathetic that I was left struggling to care for anyone, except possibly the poor Pinkerton fellow who was continually one step behind the gang.

The action when it happens is reasonably well staged but completely irrelevant, attempting to imitate Sam Peckinpah's signature slow-mo death and glory shoot outs, which here leave one cold and indifferent. Not good enough.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 June 2013
I watched this last night for the first time, and enjoyed it a lot. A good cast of real life siblings play the James brothers (Keaches), the Younger brothers (Carradines) and the Ford brothers. The story starts at the height of their notariety as bank and train robbers, and perhaps also the beginning of the end for them when one of the gang kills an innocent man.

Of the cast David Carrradine stood out for me. He seemed to have that undefineable coolness that works so well in westerns. Its well directed by Walter Hill, but unlike a previous reviewer I felt that the big gunfight at the end was a little unrealistic. I know the guns weren't that accurate in those days, but for the number of bullets fired very few actually hit their target.

What adds to the quality of the film is the fact that the outlaws personal lifes are dealt with very well. There is a sense of struggle for them in trying to have some sort of stable home life, which is of course almost impossible, and some of the main characters seem to be haunted by this.

With a runtime of only 95 mins, this is a tightly constructed movie which is well worth owning, and I shall be watching it again.
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on 9 August 2004
Back in the glory days of 1980, Michael Bay was just a fifteen year old lad with a love of movies who would soon begin his enrolment at Wesleyan University. Bryan Singer too was a mere child, probably admiring films like The Long Riders with his buddy Ethan Hawke. It would take a further six years for John Mc Tiernan to carve his name in the Hollywood ladder and John Woo was still finding his directorial roots in Southern China. The man to watch when it came to extremely stylised action was one Walter Hill, the creator of such awesome gun-totting avalanches as Extreme Prejudice, The Warriors and Johnny Handsome. Long since categorised as 'the' director for choosing style over content, Hill started out his career as a screenwriter. He penned The Getaway for Sam Peckinpah, who was obviously his idol, and in almost all of his movies he adds visual flourishes that are unsubtly reminiscent of Peckinpah's accomplishments. (Check out Extreme Prejudice where Hill almost out Peckinpahs Peckinpah!) Like all of cinema's greatest achievers, Hill had an unbridled love for the western. Over the length of his career, he would return to the genre again and again, giving us offerings that ranged from the large-scale excess of Geronimo: an American legend, to the smaller, but just as historically accurateWild Bill.
By far the best of his Western work, The Long Riders tells the tale of the James/Younger legacy, a slice of history that has been adapted for the silver screen on countless occasions. Perhaps the film's strongest and most alluring attribute is the fact that the cast contains real life acting siblings in the shape of the Carradines, the Keaches, the Guests and the Quaids as the band of outlaws. It's also one of the finest and most attractively crafted movies of its kind, equally as beautiful as Heaven's Gate and as tirelessly entertaining as Tombstone.
I doubt that fans of the genre will need any introduction to the exploits of Jesse James, so I won't bother to list a plot synopsis. But reportedly, this is one of the more accurate descriptions of the adventures of the infamous anti-establishment crusader. Frankly, if outings like Frank and Jesse and the dismal American Outlaws are anything to go by, it's also one of the best of the colossal bunch.
The thespian brothers hold up their ends with finesse, and without taking anything away from the Keaches who don't fail to entertain from start to finish, one can only wonder how the film could have turned out if Jeff and Beau Bridges would have been available to accept the leads. David Carradine gives a scene stealing performance, making the most of his 'relationship' with an incredibly sexy Pamela Reed as Belle Shirley. Props are certainly due to Randy Quaid for not over cooking his threats against the singer in the bar scene at the beginning, he comfortably makes those few short lines the best of the whole damn movie. It's a shame that James Keach could never make his star shine brighter on the Hollywood A-list. Even so, he still has one or two great performances to look back on with enough pride to show that he was once a force to be reckoned with on the tinsel-town ladder.
Being as this is a Walter Hill joint, all the flashy trademarks are rooted firmly in place, including the use of his ever-dependable cast alumni such as James Remar. Surprisingly enough, for a director that's famed for his love of stylised violence, there are very few gunfights throughout the runtime, which somehow makes them even more powerful when they do finally occur. The Northfield Minnesota ambush is perhaps one of the greatest shoot-outs of western history, utilising a great use of sound to make each bullet hit home with a stark sense of realism that's almost nightmare inducing. Co-ordinator Craig Baxley should take a bow for his constant but never over-excessive use of jaw dropping stunts. Bodies literally fly through the air with an exquisite force that manages to bring home the impact of a gunshot with adeptness. Long Riders also boats more than its share of accurately realised set locations. But unlike Michael Cimino, Hill never over indulges or looses the plot to period preciseness, so the sheen is never overpowering or unwelcome.
Although Long Riders may not hold the masterpiece status of such often-touted westerns as The Wild Bunch, Unforgiven or even Dances with Wolves, it's still a five star movie. It's superbly acted, impressively casted, flawlessly directed and it boasts some of the greatest music that you're likely to find this side of an opera. Many people often consider Tombstone to be 'the all time great popcorn western.' Well, I can only presume that's because they haven't actually seen this long forgotten classic slice of storytelling. If you're a fan of the Wild West and you've let this slip you by, then you need to be asking yourself why...
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Walter Hill's The Long Riders was one of the few modern Westerns that managed to get the right mix between printing the legend and making it feel real. The umpteenth retelling of the Jesse James legend, though for once giving equal weight to the Younger and Miller Brothers, it may lack the brutal demythologising of Philip Kaufman's The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid or the poetry of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but it has enough strengths of its own to deserve a cult classic status that it hasn't quite achieved.

It was a difficult shoot, with Hill apparently rewriting much of the script on the cuff, which might explain its narrative economy, but the scars don't show. As you might expect from Hill, the action scenes are particularly well executed, but there's also a strong sense of place and community that gives the film an added weight. It's also particularly good at showing the way the Pinkerton detectives' heavy-handed ineptness had more to do with making them folk heroes than their own exploits. But while the film has a striking look that feels authentic without weighing the film down with trivial details, at heart there's not a great deal more substance than any of the preceding Jesse James films. The James-Younger gang may have got into the habit of robbing banks during the war and found they were good at it, but Cole Younger acknowledges they'd probably have ended up the same way if there hadn't been a war, and that's about as far as the film digs as far as motivation goes. At times this is more of a saga about families whose business just happens to be train and bank robbery, and the film's sibling casting - the Carradines, the Keachs, the Quaids and the Guests (as Bob and Charlie Ford) - works well in that context, though it's odd to see Dennis Quaid being surplus to requirements. James Keach's dark and brooding Jesse James isn't as well developed as you might expect, with David Carradine's Cole Younger and Stacy Keach's Frank James making the biggest impression. Pamela Reed is a Belle Starr well worth a knife fight ("What's the winner get?" "Nothin' you both ain't already had.") and Ry Cooder's score is superb (Cooder has an uncredited cameo as one of the musicians in the film).

It would have been interesting to see how the proposed sequel/prequel would have turned out - even though the film wasn't a big hit, it did well enough for United Artists to consider a followup with the same cast until Heaven's Gate put them off Westerns for good. But as this stands, it's more than good enough to stand on its own two feet and is easily one of the best of that last crop of 80s Westerns before the genre went into hibernation. MGM/UA's DVD is an acceptable widescreen transfer (though the UK DVD is missing a few seconds of illegal horse falls) but the only extra is a trailer - in an ideal world this would merit an audio commentary and an attempt to unearth John Carradine's deleted scene that would have added another generation to the mix.

Second Sight's Region B-locked Blu-ray release offers an excellent new one hour long German documentary. It's basically just talking heads with Walter Hill, James Keach and Robert Carradine, but although they're enthusiastic about the film it's not a gushing love-in and they talk at length about the creative reasons behind some of their decisions. Most of the meat is from Hill and Carradine, but it's choice stuff. There are also two featurettes from the same interview sessions that were obviously deemed too long for the documentary: one with Hill talking about his relationship with Sam Peckinpah and the different ways they used slow motion, the other a lengthy breakdown of shooting the Northfield Minnesota raid. The transfer of the feature isn't a huge upgrade from the DVD, though, and it's still missing four seconds of horse falls (ironic considering the discussion of avoiding hurting the horses in the supplements).

Kino Lorber's 2-disc Region A-locked US Bluray release is taken from a new and uncut 4K scan that's a little colder than the rich colours on the Second Sight release while the letterboxing favours a bit more of the top of the image, and it's hard to say which is the more accurate representation of how the film originally looked nearly four decades on (though if you want thericher colour you can tweak around with your TV's colour settings). There's no debate about the extras package, which is absolutely superb, carrying over the features Robert Fischer's Fiction Factory produced for the Second Sight disc (though the transfers of these is slightly less impressive than on the UK disc) while adding an extraordinary number of new and in-depth interviews - Keith Carradine and Robert Carradine, Stacy Keach and James Keach, Randy Quaid, Nicholas Guest, Walter Hill, composer Ry Cooder and producer Tim Zinnemann, as well as an audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson, the original theatrical trailer and trailers for other MGM/UA Westerns released by Kino Lorber (Death Rides a Horse, The Mercenary, Valdez is Coming and The Hunting Party). Needless to say, it's highly recommended.
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on 30 June 2015
A top notch Western. This stars is for the film The Long Riders 1980 Walter Hills Western tribute to Sam Peckinpah slow motion violence films. The action is very good sometimes is the Movie working very slow but it is for the story's best that capture the infamous Jesse James and Cole Younger gang, the brothers all famously played by real-life siblings the Keachs, Carradines, Quaids and Guests. you follow the gangs on their legendary bank robbery raids. You even have a Swede trying to buy a horse from Cole Younger (David Carradine) under the bank robbery raid very funny.
Music by Ry Cooder
This Blu-ray have a good amount of extras the the picture quality is very good (4 stars of 5) 16:9 1.85:1 the sound have only stereo no 5.1 and no subtitles very poor. English and Swedish is a must and I dont understand why the studio or in this case Second Sight dont put the Original Theatrical Trailer on the disc. It's a shame.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 April 2016
Back in the 1980s, director Walter Hill was a force to be reckoned with, and this generally superb western is a rousing, good-looking take on the James-Younger gang legend, with a deadpan James Keach as Jesse, brother Stacy as Frank of that clan, David Carradine excellent as Cole Younger, and a typically effectve Randy Quaid as Clell Miller. The other brothers don't register so much, though Keith Carradine and Dennis Quaid have a few good moments. The two Guests are just that ~ guests at the feast, but they do play the Ford brothers . . .
Pamela Reed {still active at 67} is very good as Cole's whore of choice Belle Starr. The women in the lives of the various gang members are portrayed as either patient, long-suffering, or cynical, as I've no doubt they were. All in all, no one is idealised, though the film can't help but load the dice on the side of the looting and murdering brothers, such is its rapturous beauty {the cinematography by veteran Ric Waite is exemplary}.
I wouldn't want to overrate this western. After all, many better and even lesser known examples of the genre are more worthy of one's time, if only for their more sophisticated concentration on nuance of character and relationships ~ this is no Rio Bravo or Winchester '73 ~ but as one of the best seventies examples of the genre, it's well worth seeing, and it's an hour less ponderous than the recent Brad Pitt~Casey Affleck film on the same theme.
One big plus is that, unlike so many movie westerns of its period, it refuses to play for easy, or indeed any, laughs. Each character is given his or her fair due, even if they only have a few minutes of screen time.
Good to see these four sets of brothers interacting so well together, and good to be reminded of what a promising director we once thought Walter Hill to be.
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on 19 June 2005
Maybe I`m having a mid-life crisis but I find myself watching this movie(which I only saw for the first time two years ago when it was shown on tv) repeatedly, probably about ten times in the last couple of years, and it gets better with each viewing. What`s so remarkable about this is that I don`t usually like westerns at all. But The Long Riders is just fantastic. The lack of "iconic" western stalwarts like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood et al is a significant contributing factor to the sheer class of this movie. The fact that I happen to like James and Stacy Keach and David and Keith Carradine helps a lot too. Not too sure about Randy Quaid though, who, to me, has the sort of face more suited to a comedy role.
Anyway, it`s a great movie all round. The music, from Ry Cooder`s slide guitar to the traditional songs and tunes, is inspired. The scene, near the end, where the gang attempt to rob the Northfield bank makes for compelling viewing and I have watched this particular part of the film countless times.
I think I`m addicted to this movie!
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on 6 February 2006
I got so carried away with the Northfield sequence that I forgot to mention some of the weaker points of the movie.
Fans of those indulgently "epic", sweeping Kevin Costner style Westerns will be disappointed, as there`s not much in the way of character development or life story present here.
The movie is largely episodic and punctuated with self-contained set-pieces.
The dialogue is somewhat rudimentary and, in the case of the Ford Brothers, even comically so, and these two lesser characters fail to convince. "Are you scaard?" - "A little bit. Ah guess Ah am"
I agree with an earlier reviewer about Randy Quaid. That perm-top hairstyle didn`t help matters. Perhaps if he`d grown some facial hair...
The "halfbreed" Sam Starr looks out of place in this movie, almost like a caricature, and his scene feels like an interlude.
But it`s STILL overall a great Western movie.
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on 16 December 2014
One of the most authentic films about the James/Younger gang and their ill-fated final raid at Northfield,Minnesota.Hardened by the civil war,in which they'd thought under the black flag of Charles Quantrill's guerrillas,the gang used guerrilla tactics to rob northern banks and trains[they had never accepted the war was over].However.the Pinkerton detectives were closing in on them.Charging up and down the main street in Northfield on horses,with guns blazing,[Quantrill style],they underestimated the people of Northfield,who were not willing to be intimidated.Plenty of action with excellent cast:the Carradene brothers.A must- have for all wild west enthusiasts.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 August 2015
The long riders is a beautiful filmed western it's about Jesse James and his brother frank james and the cole younger gang directed by Walter hill I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that this was different than any other Jesse James films. The first thing it brought together three sets of acting brothers to play the outlaws the keachs carradines quaids and guests the second thing was this film was like no other Jesse James film in previous films Jesse James was portrayed as a romantic hero in this version he is what he was a ruthless angry mixed up young man.
In post civil war America the legendary band of outlaws blaze a bloody trail across minnesota and the west robbing banks trains and stagecoaches culminating in the infamous Northfield Minnesota bank raid which cost Jesse James his gang with stunning cinematography a western that took inspiration from John ford to sam peckinpah Walter hills the long riders is one of the last great westerns of the 20th century.
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