U.S.A. • 1972 • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • 35MM • 100 MIN

Declining a job offer from his brother who is amassing a fortune from mobile homes, fading rodeo star Junior Bonner (Steve McQueen) says: ‘I’ve got to go down my own road.’ ‘What road?’ asks the brother (Joe Don Baker). Junior Bonner is about the rootless modern cowboy who, to keep pace with modern life, even has to transport his horse by truck, and for whom the frontiers of individualism are closing fast.
The film is framed by Bonner’s two attempts to ride a raging black bull called Sunshine, the ride being a metaphor for the hero’s predicament — momentary ascendancy but an impending, inevitable fall. McQueen is quietly charismatic and there are sympathetic supporting performances from Robert Preston and Ida Lupino as his estranged parents. The destruction of the family home rates comparison with a similarly traumatic occasion in John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and astutely characterised scenes round the dinner table show how well Peckinpah can handle moments of intimacy as well as action.

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