It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Sam Peckinpah attempted to have his name removed from "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid." I sympathized with him. If this wasn't entirely his work, he shouldn't have had to take the blame. And even if it was, the less said the better. It's a movie that exists almost entirely on one note--a low, melancholy one--and achieves what I thought would have been impossible for him Peckinpah: he's boring.
The movie tells a simple story, simple-mindedly. "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," good and true friends from way back, find themselves on opposite sides of the law when Garrett becomes sheriff. He locks Billy up for an old murder, and Billy is scheduled to hang in three days. Billy blasts his way out of jail, goes on the run, and sets up a chase through the West that lasts for the final hour of the movie.
We're supposed to figure out everybody's motivation on our own, I guess; Pat's male-bonding with Billy is dime-story psychology, and he apparently admires the outlaw for acting out his fantasies. Garrett, on the other hand, has chosen law and order: "This country is growing old," he says, "and I intend to grow old with it." The dialogue, by Rudy Wurlitzer, occasionally has a nice gritty tone to it, but nothing moves; scenes just lay there; the ending isn't a surprise but neither is the story.
The movie shows signs of having been badly trimmed after Peckinpah finished. It clocks in at less than two hours, which is unusual for big Peckinpah productions; it's all most studios can do to hold him to 140 minutes. Some of the actors listed in the credits never appear, which is another bad sign. I was particularly looking for a favorite of mine, Dub Taylor, who played C.W. Moss's father in "Bonnie and Clyde." Now Dub is not an easy man to miss in a movie, but I couldn't find him.