The Long Riders (1980)
By combining elements of classic Westerns with a modern narrative, Hill and his capable cast render a thrilling look at characters often misinterpreted by Hollywood.
Reviewed by Mike Emery, Fri., March 21, 2003
THE LONG RIDERS (1980)
D: Walter Hill; with James Keach, Stacy Keach, David Carradine, Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine, Randy Quaid, Dennis Quaid, Nicholas Guest, Christopher Guest.
When The Long Riders was released, its biggest buzz stemmed from its cast of brothers. Luckily all siblings involved were solid actors, allowing director Hill to create a unique and visually stunning Western. Based on the James-Younger gang's tale, The Long Riders accurately portrays post-Civil War America and the outlaws dominating its landscape. James Keach plays the legendary Jesse James, a Missouri bandit whose commitment to his family rivals his dedication to robbing banks. Flanking Jesse are brother Frank (Stacy Keach) and Coleman Younger (David Carradine). Rounding out the posse are the remaining Youngers (Keith and Robert Carradine) and the Millers (Dennis and Randy Quaid). Hoping to join forces are the Ford brothers (Nicholas and Christopher Guest). When the Pinkerton Detective Agency sets its sights on the gang, bullets fly and bodies drop. The gang quickly splits up, but the lure of a bank in Minnesota reunites everyone for a climactic heist. Drawing on a rich pool of acting talent, Hill masterfully juggles all of the characters while employing taut action. James Keach is no doubt engaging as Jesse with his steely glare and softened voice. Meanwhile, brother Stacy is on target as the sentimental Frank. David Carradine is the film's most charismatic outlaw, raising hell but keeping his cool during shootouts. Thrilling action scenes help pace the story -- co-written by the Keaches -- while episodic drama allows insight into each character. Anchoring the film is a crisp soundtrack from Ry Cooder, who would collaborate again with Hill on 1986's Crossroads. Despite its age, The Long Riders remains quite fresh. By combining elements of classic Westerns with a modern narrative, Hill and his capable cast render a thrilling look at characters often misinterpreted by Hollywood.