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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Junior Bonner (1972)

An aging rodeo rider (Steve McQueen) returns to his home town for a 4th of July rodeo celebration. There, he reunites with his estranged parents; his dreamer of a father (Robert Preston) with a roving eye, his long suffering mother (Ida Lupino) and money hungry brother (Joe Don Baker). A rather gentle, reflective look at one of the director Sam Peckinpah's favorite themes, that of the slow passing of an institution without anything to take its place. Peckinpah has a genuine feel for his subject and the world of the rodeo feels authentic and he mercifully doesn't condescend to it. However, depending on what scene you're watching, one isn't sure if the pacing is languid or sluggish. McQueen is just fine but it's the two veterans, Preston and Lupino in effortlessly expert performances who embody Peckinpah's theme. The one blight in the film is a seemingly endless barroom brawl that conjures up the worst of John Ford's excesses. Peckinpah regulars provided the wide screen cinematography which is by Lucien Ballard (BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE) and Jerry Fielding (STRAW DOGS) composed the tiresome good ole boy score. With Ben Johnson, Mary Murphy (who the film could have used more of), Donald Barry, Sandra Deel, Dub Taylor and Barbara Leigh who takes up space providing eye candy.

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