The Wild Bunch

Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch is being remade. This angers me not because I’m against remakes, but because I have always claimed that I am not against remakes. I may say that there’s nothing wrong with Soderbergh recasting Ocean’s 11, or Van Sant re-shooting Psycho. I’m amused by the idea that someone feels that it is worth the money and effort to remake The Fog and The Pink Panther.

But now there’s a part of me that is bristling–not just because I don’t want anyone to dare even to think of redoing Peckinpah’s masterpiece, but also because I’ve flattered myself into thinking that I’d never write somthing like this (which I’ve taken from Victoria Lindrea’s review of the remake of The Italian Job): “A homage, rather than a remake, it moved the action to Los Angeles and gave the traffic jam a hi-tech spin. But in aping a classic, it could not help but disappoint fans of the original.” Is there anything more predictable than “it could not help but disappoint the fans of the original”? Hollywood must know that “fans of the original” do not, by rule, constitute the majority of ticket sales of remakes. Of course “fans of the original” will be disappointed. Why? Because (I’ve always told myself) they’re idiots.

So now, here I am. Ranting. I am furious that David Ayer is remaking this film. Training Day was excellent for about 45 minutes and then it fell to pieces. U-571 was interminable (Frisoli, do you remember watching this with Paul at Leo Braudy’s?). I hope to God Ayer’s screenplays are better when he is the director. And if what people are saying about Harsh Times is true, then maybe there’s hope that his remake of The Wild Bunch will stand on its own merits.

Perhaps I am afraid of this. Perhaps I’m afraid it will be good as, if not better than, the original.

But even if it is better, why bother? Why remake this film? Ayer’s a decent screenwriter, why doesn’t he write his own The Wild Bunch? Why do talented young filmmakers and screenwriters want to remake their favorite films so badly…even at the risk of remaking them so badly? Word is (and this word may be stale) that Ayer is “updating” the story. Instead of using the Villa uprising as backdrop, Ayer is using modern day Mexico. It’s still a heist story, but it involves drug cartels and the CIA. Why the change? To protect himself from his own deeply mixed feelings about remaking a film he loves and respects?

So it’s out. I’m a hypocrite. I pretend to be amused when purists are up in arms over Jackson’s King Kong. Or Burton’s Planet of the Apes. I’m looking forward to the remake of The Omen. And why not remake Convoy? That might be a hell of a lot of fun.

But a remake of The Wild Bunch? To that I say “well now, you can kiss my sister’s black cat’s ass.”

2 thoughts on “The Wild Bunch”

  1. The remake (or threat thereof) tends to make me either bored or annoyed, rather than outraged–like you, I tend to wonder why, worried less about the pure aura of the original than the paucity of new product.

    But your post gets me thinking about cover versions. I see no reason for a bland pop redux, but I dig even semi-faithful covers with a neat new spin(like Fountains of Wayne doing “Baby (One More Time)”), and adore strange reconstructions (like Sonic Youth or John Wesley Harding doing Madonna). And music is… well, like theater, an endless reiteration of reiteration? Even the ‘original’ artist returns and repeats and, on occasion, reimagines.

    What’s different about movies? Well, a lot, sure. And if there were 87 new productions and 15 remakes, I’d care less about remakes… but the ratio is reversed, and options (to make, let alone to distribute) remain scarce. But thinking about cover versions frees up even some of my irritation.

  2. I’m teaching Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid next semester (will the students hate it…its languid pacing and downbeat feel?)…I found a great site called The High Hat which has loads of info on Peckinpah. Their current issue is devoted to Altman. You probably all know this site already but it was a revelation to me. The site looks good too, unlike most.

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