Still workin' on 8 seconds......
Chris K. Wilson | Dallas, TX United States | 11/16/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a big fan of film director Sam Peckinpah and actor Steve McQueen, I always thought I had seen their most substantial work. Much to my surprise, I viewed the 1972 film "Junior Bonner" for the first time recently and was stunned by its quality and depth. "Junior Bonner" is a terrific film, complete with Peckinpah's individualistic themes, McQueen's understated though electric presence, magnificient location detail, boozy saloons and elder statesmen (and women) coming to terms with a rapidly receding past.A genre unto itself, the rodeo lifestyle was documented with surprising fervor in the early 1970s by a handful of interesting films including "Honkers," "J.W. Coop," and "When the Legends Die." Each film explored the themes of a changing civilization which embraced convention while muting individualism and personal freedom. Thus, Peckinpah and McQueen were truly in their element with "Junior Bonner."The film covers a day in the life of Junior Bonner (McQueen), an aging rodeo star who returns to his Arizona hometown to participate in an annual rodeo competition. We are soon introduced to his family, including his estranged parents (Robert Preston and Ida Lupino) and his budding businessman brother (Joe Don Baker) looking to profit from the sale of his father's land while exploiting the frontier/cowboy persona."Junior Bonner" is so understated, that the viewer must read between the lines throughout its brief running time, including a fascinating dinner scene with McQueen, Lupino and Baker when they discuss the family's future. It is a moment of brilliant directing and acting.Ironically, what is probably the least seen film of Peckinpah and McQueen's careers is also one of their best. Peckinpah has never before been so restrained, if not gentle. Known for his fierce action sequences in such films as "The Wild Bunch" and "The Getaway," Peckinpah utilizes his detailed, frenzied style during the exciting rodeo sequences. But his handling of the more intimate moments, especially those between Preston and Lupino, are some of his most gentle scenes he ever put on film. In many ways, Preston's character is just a scruffy version of Peckinpah himself - a deeply flawed but eventually loveable dreamer. It is Peckinpah opening up to the viewer for one of the few times in his career.McQueen, likewise, plays a character very close to him as a man. The role of Junior Bonner is that of a gregarious loner, limping from the hard knocks of life, trying to quietly go about his business but discovering he can do anything but. His accent, his mannerisms and his reactions to everyday life always ring with a note of truth. It's absolutely one of his finest performances.Perhaps the film's only fault is the rather abrupt ending which seems to come out of nowhere. It's unconventional, but then again, so were Peckinpah and McQueen. Unheralded, and relatively unknown, "Junior Bonner" is a great film ripe for discovery. Quiet, unassuming and good natured, "Junior Bonner" is a perfect display of two legendary motion picture talents (Peckinpah, McQueen) exploring themes perhaps closer to their hearts than any film they ever made."
Fascinating Slice of American Pie
David Baldwin | Philadelphia,PA USA | 12/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You can walk away from "Junior Bonner" having seen every Sam Peckinpah and Steve McQueen film and not know that either contributed to this low-key gem. It's a tribute to both legends that they eschewed vanity to create a film that feels like real life. I don't know how long it took Peckinpah to lens this film but it feels like he just took his camera for a few days to capture the ambiance of Prescott, Arizona on a Fourth of July Weekend when the rodeo came to town. Having never been to a rodeo or seen any films about it I found the way Peckinpah captures the people, the sights, and sounds thrilling. Anybody whose followed the career of Steve McQueen knows that he was the master of understatement. Here he gracefully captures the essence of an aging rodeo star who goes from one show to the next in hopes of winning the $950.00 in prize money. Peckinpah populates the cast with legendary actors like Robert Preston, Ida Lupino, and Ben Johnson along with notable character actors like Joe Don Baker and William McKinney. This ensemble of actors are terrific because they seem like real people who've been part of the rodeo world or Prescott landscape their whole lives. Needless to say, a must for Peckinpah or McQueen fans and essential viewing for all film lovers."
A Pleasure from Peckinpah
John Capute | Atlanta, GA USA | 10/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you know Sam Peckinpah from only his "Bloody Sam" ouvre (that is, pretty much all his films, The Wild Bunch most infamously), then you may be surprised by this gentle, low-key contemporary rodeo tale. Which isn't to say that Peckinpah is not excising his usual demons--the indvidual at odds with his society, the conflict of the man who is out of sync with his times. But this time he does it with not a geyser of blood nor dead body (nor dead bodies) in sight. Instead, he gives us a couple days in the life of an on-the-verge-of-being-a-has-been rodeo rider returning to his hometown rodeo. The truth is, not much happens in this film. Junior Bonner, in the old western tradition of a "man's gotta do what a man's gotta do", gets another shot at the bull that threw him just days before. We meet his older brother who has thrown in his lot with developers that are inevitably destroying the very West they exploit. We meet his na'er-do-well Dad and his daffy dreams of striking it rich in Australia. And we meet his Mother, dependent on her successful son, bitter over the dissolution of the man she married as well as her marriage, but still onery. Like Peckinpah's best films, this is really a character study of people at odds with their world, each other, and themselves, but who yet find dignity and grace in the worst of situations. The performances are first-rate all around: Steve McQueen not afraid to make a little fun of his famous macho persona; the same for Robert Preston and usually tough guy Joe Don Baker; and best of all, Ida Lupino, playing a role that doesn't exist in contenmporary American movies, a fully realized middle-aged woman. Again, not much happens, but by the time you get to the end of this tiny gem, you realize everything has happened, for we get a real sense of life and the complicated choices it tosses at us. This is a side of Peckinpah that he never again showed, which is a shame for anyone who loves the man's work and loves American movies."