A tale of friendship and survival among diverse young men set in the 1860s West.
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Media Type: DVD
Title: BAD COMPANY (1972)
Street Release Date: 06/04/2002
"No, this isn't an action-comedy with Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins. This is a little-known Western from the early 1970s that deserves a revival of interest. It's gritty, realistic, often funny, well-acted, and unlike most people's expectations of what the Western should be. Fans of the genre, as well as those to claim not to like Westerns at all, should give it a try."Bad Company" shows how the American Western was changing in the early 70s. The influence of the Italian Westerns of the 60s caused American directors to take a fresh look at the genre, and by the time of "Bad Company" some excellent directors were finding a new, unique voice in the old world of the horse operas. Robert Benton, who co-wrote "Bonnie and Clyde" and would later helm "Kramer vs. Kramer," makes his directorial debut here and does a teriffic, low-key job. The film shows the irony of "go west, young man" through its story of a band of young toughs who venture into the promise of the frontier only to find deprivation, cruelty, and death. It's a grim and realistic premise, devoid of old-fashioned Western heroics, but the movie has a certain lightness and joy as well. The recent smash hit "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" had a definite influence on the relationship between the leads here, Jeff Bridges and Barry Brown. Bridges is superb and convincing in his part, and David Huddleston has great presence in his unusual villain role. The photography is glowing and romantic despite the gritty story, but it works wonderfully at evoking the time period. A highly recommended film for people who want something a bit different with their Western."
The best movie you've never seen
Steven Hellerstedt | 06/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jeff Bridges made two great, underappreciated movies in 1972 - the John Huston directed FAT CITY and BAD COMPANY. Audience indifference to FAT CITY has always baffled me. As of today I have a new conundrum to puzzle over. BAD COMPANY is one of the best movies I've seen in a long, long time.
It's 1863 and the Union army is rounding up draft dodgers. Young Drew Dixon (Barry Brown), with parental blessings, prayers and one hundred dollars in traveling money, lights out for the territories beyond the reach of the US Army. His journey stalls out as soon as he reaches `St. Jo''. The army is there in force and transportation west is scarce. It's only a matter of time before he's discovered, and the penalty this time might result in his death.
Drew stumbles upon a group of homeless young ruffians, nominally led by Jake Rumsey (Jeff Bridges), and in short order he joins them. On mule and horse the six young men bid farewell to the United States and head west for Virginia City. As Drew tells us in a voice-over narration, "I've fallen in with some rough types, but it seems to be the only way I can get to the west and make my parents proud."
BAD COMPANY looks beautiful. Most of the action takes place out of doors, on the golden prairie `neath a cerulean blue sky. Even the few indoor shots don't look like typical studio sets - when Jake and Drew have a little set-to in a house the props have weight to them, and chairs and tables don't collapse when fallen upon. The editing and acting add to the naturalistic feeling. Director Robert Benton allows scenes to play themselves through, and he allows the actors time and room to find the meaning of scenes. It helps tremendously that Bridges is cast in the lead role - even at this early stage of his career his charisma and instincts are in full play.
The plot is a bit of a shaggy dog and it takes a few unexpected twists and turns, but things never feel forced. For instance, after a couple days on the road the boys come across a farmer and his wife heading east. The farmer gave up and is heading back home, done in by twisters and cattle men and "pure d-rotten soil." The scene might have ended there, it was a natural end point, but Benton extends it and has the farmer make a rather surprising offer to the boys involving his wife. It's a decision that could have ruined the scene and maimed the movie if done wrong. It is handled so smoothly, though, that it's utterly convincing.
BAD COMPANY is a great movie that deserves better than the anonymity it's been languishing in for the last three decades or so. WARNING: BAD COMPANY is rated PG but there are some scenes in it that might make it unsuitable for younger viewers. A wild rabbit is shot and killed in one scene, a man is hanged in another unedited scene. Also, there's quite a bit of bad language coming out of young mouths, including racial epithets."
An artful, reflective, unusual western
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 01/28/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the best anti-heroic westerns I've seen... A young, brash Jeff Bridges stars as Jake Rumsey, the putative leader of a disorganized "gang" of adolescent boys, set adrift amid the lawlessness of the Civil War-era West. The boys teeter between adulthood and adolescence, abject fear and murderous amorality, and as they wander through the bleak, vacant prairie, they have no signposts -- figurative or literal -- to guide them. Although the subject matter is pretty raw, the film is surprisingly circumspect (visually, at least), and the violence and pain it portrays is all given a complete context, and full emotional depth. It's a surprising film, with a deceptively simple structure weighed against a deeply pessimistic view of human nature. It's also one of those superior westerns that feels absolutely, completely convincing. Recommended."
Lik the proverb says, "'Bad Company' corrupts good morals."
D. Enright | 06/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an overlooked and, unfortunately, mostly forgotten Western from the 1970s. I first saw it with my younger sisters and brother at the Mustang Drive-In in Chandler, Arizona. Also, many people may not know that members of a 70s rock band were so impressed with the movie that they chose the movie's title for their band's name. The story is about one boy (Barry Brown) and his struggle to survive after his parents send him to the West to avoid being drafted into the Civil War. His mother makes him promise to write her over the course of his journey. The boy, being a good Methodist, promises his mother that he will and leaves the security of his home to find loneliness and hunger on the road. He meets up with a band of homeless (and possibly runaway or draft-dodging) boys like himself and travels with them towards the Western US. They have many adventures, but get themselves in trouble, too. One boy is shot and killed for stealing a pie which is cooling on a windowsill. Another boy meets a similar tragic ending. Finally, the only two left are the boys played by Barry Brown and Jeff Bridges. Jeff plays a boy who is the antithesis of Barry--bad versus good--and Jeff finally corrupts Barry by his lawless, immoral ways: having sex for money with a pioneer's wife, robbing banks, etc. Barry finally resorts to robbing banks with Jeff to replace the money Jeff had stolen from his boot. Jeff laughs when he tells Barry that he spent it on whores.It's a good lesson for all who watch it enfold--Barry's corruption does not happen all at once; it evolves. See the movie. Many other Westerns seemed mediocre to me after I saw "Bad Company.""
Who's Barry Brown?
D. Enright | Midwestern USA | 02/26/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"For me the impact of "Bad Company" was onset of the mystery of the actor playing Drew Dixon. I was surprised to see this talented, handsome kid holding his own (if not upstaging) Jeff Bridges. I saw it first on cable and had to wait until the end credits to discover the name Barry Brown. That sent me on the quest for an explanation of why this kid did not go on to continued stardom. That led to the discovery that the beautiful and talented Barry shot himself in 1978. And further that his 2 years younger sister jumped off a Los Angeles overpass in 1995, having never recovered from Barry's unceremonious exit or the family dysfunctions that they shared. Younger brother Jim's book ("Los Angeles Diaries") blames parents and alchoholism (but who doesn't?) My fascination with a guy who had everything (looks, 170 IQ, shining talent) but checked out anyway leads also to "Daisy Miller" where Sybil Sheperd is not as good as Peter Bogdonovich thinks (although beautiful), but Barry as the leading man is again very impressive. We miss you, Barry!