Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"The Wild Rovers" is contrived simplicity

Cleveland Press June 24, 1971

There is natural simplicity and then there is a contrived simplicity that kind of yells out at you and says "Hey, look how simple and low-key this is."

And there are unforgettable characters and there are characters that have been cutesied up with folksy touches and pseudo-philosophy so that you say, "Gee, that guy's an unforgettable character."

THIS TYPE of synthetic quality, which is really a lack of quality, imbues "Wild Rovers" which is now playing locally

The movie was produced, written and directed by Blake Edwards whose directorial stints have included such items as "Pink Panther," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Days of Wine and Roses," "The Great Race" and "Darling Lili."

The story is about a tough old cowpoke (William Holden) and his young Buddy (Ryan O'Neal). The old one philosophizes quite a bit. "You show me a cowboy that's got more than a few dollars in his poke and I'll show you a cowboy who's stopped being a cowboy and started bein' a bank robber."

When he also talks about his dreams of owning a ranch in Mexico and "lying in the sun" in a burst of grammatical nicety that shatters the feeling of reality, the younger and more direct man suggests that they go out and rob that bank.

THEY PULL OFF the job successfully enough but their procedure from then on is less like a couple of outlaws on the run than it is like a couple of guys with no cares casually going from one place to another.

O'Neal takes along a new born pup and is dogmatic about keeping it. When they have to double up on one horse they set out to buy a muIe because they don't want to take any chances on stealing a horse.

They catch a wild horse in the snow-covered mountains and Holden tarries the horses while O'Neal romps slow motion in the snow in "Love Story" style.

When they hit a town they stop and settle in with some prostitutes. O'Neal gets in a poker game that ends in a wild shootout that leaves him badly wounded.

THERE IS A sub plot with Karl Malden as a stern rancher who had employed the pair. When they rob the bank Malden sends his two troublesome sons after them as a point of honor.

Edwards has done this less in the manner of his earlier movies than he has in the style of Sam "Wild Bunch" Peckinpah, blood spurting from gunshot wounds and death coming in slow motion.

Holden, who is old enough to play the role in which he is cast, acts it as though he were a younger actor imitating an old man. O'Neal mostly looks blank enough to do some of the less than sensible things that he does.