director Robert Benton
Bad Company recently played at the Castro Theatre, and though I couldn’t make it to the showing, I was certainly intrigued by the write up and queued the film up. It’s the first feature film directed by Robert Benton, one of the figures of the American film scene of the late 1960’s-1970’s, not one with which I’ve had as much exposure.
It’s a very fine, melancholy revisionist Western, starring a remarkably young Jeff Bridges with pretty equally remarkable Barry Brown (an actor died an untimely .death at his own hand at the age of 27). It’s the story of a gang of young men who hie out to escape inscription into the Civil War and take to the West as would=be outlaws.
It’s easy to see the parallels to then contemporary Vietnam protestation and anti-War feeling, but more than directly addressing the war itself, the film is focused on the directionless, scrappy youth as they encounter the harsher reality of the outside world. Brown plays the educated, monied Drew Dixon who takes up with Bridges’ Jake Rumsey and his gang of young men after he is mugged by him.
The boys’ exploits veer from the amusing and bittersweet to the brutal and tragic. And while the film ends on an open-ended, assumingly positive note, the whole is drenched in a much darker, tragic circumstance.
It’s a very good film, an excellent emblem of the time, perhaps even further imbued with tragedy given the sad end of Barry Brown, who showed great charm and character in his part as Dixon.