Bad Company (1972)
It wasn’t long before I saw this as the teenage answer to The Cowboys (1972), released the same year as Bad Company (1972) both going for very different audiences as the Western has to compete with more cynical cinema, Watergate and the aftermath of Vietnam. Both depict young men/boys asserting themselves as men. The more fondly remembered The Cowboys has The Duke for starters in one of his later films leading young boys around the ages of 10-13 on a cattle drive. Where as the maturer Bad Company is giving prospective young talent centre stage in their own western. Namely The Dude – Jeff Bridges.
Bad Company is a more romantic western that attempts to breathe new life into a genre that is beginning to lose its purpose. With new blood at the reins. It also has a more realistic look to the film, none of those hats and checkered shirts and waistcoats we usually find. Set during the Civil War we see young boys being rounded up, who have tried to avoid the call to war, to fight and be a man, when they don’t really know themselves. A reflection of the recent conflict that was winding down overseas. We see a young man of about 16 Drew Dixon (Barry Brown) being smuggled out of the state, the only surviving brother of his family, given enough money and a chance to make it West, hoping to have his own American dream.
It’s not long until we meet wannabe thief Jake Rumsey (Bridges) who mugs him on the god-fearing god natured Dixon. Reality is starting to hit home for him, his first experience of crime, the reality of life away from the bosom of his family starting to hit home for him. It’s obvious that he will join up with these young men, all runaways, needing to survive on the open road. All more prepared but him for what lays ahead. This is what the film is a rare coming of age western of the decade that shows even hoe harsh the West is to them.
It does have its funny moments, its a gentle film that has its jolts of reality as the boys try to act like men. Waking the audience up to find that even boys are not safe from the shot of a gun, bullets don’t discriminate. It’s all the worse when we see a kid fall to the ground, the violence of an untamed land will attack anyone who can’t defend themselves. Their main enemy is a band of men lead by Big Joe (David Huddleston) whose men are not much better than the boys they are after.
There’s a beautiful gunfight scene among this much forgotten classic (if you can call it that) when the tables have turned, with only Jake and Drew left alive we go back in time to silent cinema as the men that have pursued them are now on the run. The music takes the edge off all the violence that allows you to enjoy the scene on another level as for the first time the boys become men. The relationship they both have is based on lies which cannot last forever as they discover. As they come rely on each other producing a little bit of comedy between them and even some unlikely loyalty. Bad Company is trying to revitalise the genre and give a new generation of actors a chance to flex their acting muscles. It does have some nice moments which are bitter sweet, a reflection of the time the film was made. When you hold it up to the more well-known The Cowboys which has more in it’s favor (and the John Wayne), a sense of nostalgia which is more tangible. Where as Bad Company seems to have been lost with time, maybe circulation or that we have moved on from that era of films.
- “Bad Company” dir., Robert Benton, 1972 (jason-hedrick.blogspot.co.uk)
- BAD COMPANY (mondo70.blogspot.co.uk)
- FILM REVIEW OF “BAD COMPANY” (1972) (vanscineblog.blogspot.co.uk)