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The origins, exploits and the ultimate fate of the Jesse James gang is told in a sympathetic portrayal of the bank robbers made up of brothers who begin their legendary bank raids because of of revenge. Written by
Keith Loh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Atmospheric and refreshing take on well known story
Using real-life acting brothers for the various sets of sibling characters in this movie might be seen as a cheesy PR stunt or an inspired move. I prefer the inspirational viewpoint. The Carradine's are superb as the Younger Brothers and the Keech's portray the James boys with considerable restrained menace, depth and stage presence. Jesse James' as played by James Keech is part humble farmer, part cold psychotic killer. Considering what the gang got up to in 19th century post-civil war Missouri, one tends to think this is just what the man himself was probably like. While Brother Frank appears to have the charisma and logic, Jesse has the steel within him and the cold detachment required for the outlaw life. However both are upstaged by David Carradine as Coleman Younger, the long haired, flamboyant, world weary star of the film. Carradine is quite superb throughout; laconic, quick witted, cool and surprisingly likable. Director Walter Hill certainly manages to bring out the contrasting and distinct characters of the gang members and wraps them up in unusual locations (for a western). This produces some wonderfully atmospheric moments and scenes of sheer cinematic poetry. All that is visually arresting about a good "cowboy " film is present here but in a stylish and individual way. The script has some dark comedy, some deep pathos and never sounds so well crafted that a bunch of country outlaws wouldn't say any of it. Some of the supporting cast stand out in their own right; Cole's fiesty whore, Belle, The James' brother mom and a young Dennis Quaid as wild but rejected former gang member, Ed Miller. All give good performances in what is a great piece of ensemble acting topped by moody photography, great stunt work and a view of these famous outlaws that doesn't paint them as quite the Robin Hood heroes of popular myth, nor totally amoral hooligans. A worthy film from an era not noted for many good Westerns.
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