Movie #61: Bad Company (1972)



Director: Robert Benton

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Barry Brown, Jim, Davis, David Huddleston, Jerry Houser, and John Savage.

Drew Dixon (Brown) is a young man from Ohio avoiding enlistment in the Union Army in the American Civil War.  He decides to head west and become an outlaw, at his parent’s blessing, and ends up joining Jake Rumsey’s (Bridges) gang.  His group consists of other draft-dodgers, and they head out west to make a new life as outlaws.

The harsh realities of their new life, though, quickly destroy their hopes and dreams of fortune.  They have to deal with unforgiving competition and a lot of the work that goes into making their new living.  They’re robbed at gunpoint by Big Joe (Huddleston) and his men.  Eventually, three of the five gang members are killed: ten-year old Boog Bookin is shot while stealing a pie from a windowsill and brothers Jim Bob and Loney Logan are both hung by Big Joe’s men.

The film itself is fairly underwhelming.  Aside from solid performances from both Bridges and Brown, not a whole  lot stood out in my mind.  However, that’s one of the main drives of the film.  It breaks down the romanticized Hollywood version of being an outlaw in the Old West.

Drew Dixon deals with the moral implications of what he’s doing.  While he maintains throughout the film that he’ll do things the fair and right way, he deceives the rest of the gang.  His parents sent him out with a sizable amount of money he’s got stashed in the sole of his boot.  His exchange when Jake calls him on this was entertaining, and Drew realizes his deceptive nature and I think becomes more open to the outlaw lifestyle.

Story-wise it seems like this film is a series of shorter films mashed together.  Each encounter: Drew meeting Jake, their first encounter with Big Joe’s gang, the aftermath of each gang members deaths, and ultimately reconciliation between Drew and Jake, could be a short film in and of itself.

Though Bad Company does a good job of breaking down the stereotypical Western film, I was overall unimpressed by it.  At times it was good, but on the whole I was glad it wasn’t any longer than it was.  I won’t see this one again, plain and simple.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.


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