Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid bears his unique cinematic signature: violence and anti-romantic sentiment come in a heavy dose. James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson are both excellent in the title roles, even though they were too old for their respective roles. The pacing of the film feels a bit off, and many characters are never developed. Still, with Bob Dylan's music and Peckinpah's impeccable style, the film is full of depth and moments of grace.
Peckinpah goes against history, Hollywood history anyway, in all of his Westerns. Dualities are everywhere. Pat and Billy are two sides of the same coin, their actions mirror each other, unclear where one character begins and the other ends. Violence enters into almost every sequence.
The supporting cast is eclectic. Bob Dylan made his screen acing debut as Alias. Harry Dean Stanton, Slim Pickins, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel, and Jason Robards all appear. Characters come and go in every scene.
The version I watched was the 110 minute version from 2005. Legend has it there's a much longer cut only a few people have seen. The 2005 version hints at a masterpiece, yet lacks the full vision of The Wild Bunch. Still, Pat Garrett and BIlly the Kid is a fantastic Western full of great moments and a keen sense of the sublime.
The film can best be summed up in an exchange between Pat and Billy:
Garrett: It feels like times have changed
The Kid: Times maybe, not me.