Junior Bonner ★★★½

I'm slowly understanding Pekinpah, having an adverse reaction to The Wild Bunch when I was young (emphasis on the young), and finding much of The Getaway pretty unpleasant. But Junior Bonner seems like a much more effective take on seeing the West pass by and the souls left behind, and the closest to the Hawksian ethos (though Hawks found the picture lousy: "Everybody in it was a loser. I hate losers.") More pragmatic in its ailing look at going home again, without much in terms of grand pretensions, the film builds up small little details to create a community that seems unaware of the real estate deals that will soon eat up their community. "Here's to those with the future ahead of them," Steve McQueen smugly remarks to his asshole capitalist brother, smashing him through a window to show him the only way he ever learned how to deal with his problems. McQueen has always been more of a presence and a body on screen than A Great Actor (and for the better), so here he remains mostly stoic, trying to survive on what little he can in terms of his bull riding, yet quite capable of expressing absolute terror as he stares up at a bulldozer constructing a future not built for him.

Pekinpah shoots those bull rides with his intense slow motion montage, but instead of reveling in the poetry of violence, the poetry here is pointed toward exalting the physical prowess of the men who put their lives on the line for some sort of dying art. The film's climax, however, comes in an all out bar brawl played for laughs, not too dissimilar to the way Allan Dwan treats physical violent comedy in Trail of The Vigilantes, using messy long takes with crowded frames to create chaos—characters fly across each minor axis into a major one to use a set up a physical punchline as a punch lands on an unintended character. Meanwhile bickering married couple Ida Lupino (simply grand with her loving eyes and scowling face) and Robert Preston try and make up—going upstairs to the lovers back room one last time—before he goes off to chase the gold dream in Australia. The Frontier never closes for those who never stop dreaming.