The Long Riders Blu-ray Review: O Brother, Who Shot Thou?

While the western genre is amongst my favorites for film and television, there are still some that I’ve overlooked or never knew existed. The Long Riders was one of the latter, and I’m amazed that, with the talent in front of and behind the camera, it went completely past me. It’s one of the most unique in the genre, and Walter Hill – an exceptionally talented director – crafts a film that is certainly one for western fans to enjoy.

Buy The Long Riders (2-Disc Special Edition) Blu-ray

The first thing that caught my attention about The Long Riders is how the main cast is comprised of brothers. James and Stacy Keach, Dennis and Randy Quaid, Christopher and Nicholas Guest, and David, Keith, and Robert Carradine all headline this tale of the James-Younger gang. Most films feature a set of siblings that are played by actors from different bloodlines. The Long Riders was able to break the mold by casting multiple bloodlines to portray multiple brothers, and the result is something that is an entertaining and well-filmed approach to the true story. There’s a better sense of connection to each character by having each one play opposite his actual sibling.

This was the first western that Hill attempted – he would later go on to direct Wild Bill, Geronimo: An American Legend, and the first episode of HBO’s Deadwood – and it shows that he has a passion for the genre right from the start. It’s one of the few that was released during the ’80s that carried the violent and gritty nature of a Sam Peckinpah film. It’s hard to say if movies like Unforgiven or even shows such as Deadwood would have ever seen the light of day in the way their current form if it wasn’t for The Long Riders or The Wild Bunch. But it’s also a safe assumption, as the genre, while usually featuring plenty of gunfighting, hardly featured the shocking closeups and gruesome deaths that are now present in more adult-geared westerns.

There are some rough patches, as Hill tries to juggle a bunch of different characters in a 100-minute movie, and the direction can seem to steer in multiple directions. Nowadays, one wonders if this would have worked better as a 3-hour epic or even a miniseries. But, as it is, The Long Riders is a thrilling entry in the genre.

This Blu-ray release for The Long Riders seems to be a repackage from another edition released in 2017. The back cover advertises its 4K restoration being from that year, and the special features – which include interviews with Hill, the Keach brothers, the two surviving Carradine brothers, and Randy Quaid and Nicholas Guest – are all from that prior release. But if this is your first time watching it, or your first time being able to purchase it, it’s a great opportunity to pick it up and add it to your collection.

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David Wangberg

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