Red Dead Redemption 2 is officially out! Reviews are pouring in, and it’s looking like another great entry following the last one. Whether you’re waiting for it to ship, install with a ridiculously large file size, or for an opening in your schedule to devote to the apparently 60+ hour campaign, why not get in the mood and watch some Westerns.
Earlier in the week, I published a similar post, detailing movies that were influential to Red Dead Redemption. I specified in that article that it follows, generally, the lone-gunman story. I have kept away from most of the details about this new game, wanting to go in relatively fresh; however, one thing that I do know is this entry differentiates itself from the first by telling a posse story rather than a lone gunman story.
There are many different ways Westerns set up their cast of characters. Some tell the story of a single person rolling up to a lawless town to bring their own brand of justice. Others show a determined and idealistic sheriff standing as the last bastion of law and order against unbeatable odds. Sometimes it focuses on the bad guys trying to pull off one last job.
The posse story features a large cast of characters that, ideally, function as a well-oiled machine, filling gaps for each other to become stronger than the sum of the group’s parts. Rockstar announced early that the game is about one man, Arthur Morgan, within a larger gang run by Dutch, the target of John Marston in the previous game. Despite carrying the moniker of 2, this upcoming game is a prequel and features Marston while he was still a member of the gang.
Red Dead Redemption was also about the end of the Wild West and the expansion of civilization. As Rockstar does in their GTA series, as well, they explored that story through clever satire to make the player question whether civilization is worth the horrors committed in its name. Red Dead Redemption 2 is not out at the time of this writing, so I can’t speak to the themes it may or may not have.
The Wild Bunch
Rockstar seems to be using The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as major large inspiration for this particular game, so I can’t not mention them. Directed by Sam Peckinpah and notably featuring Ernest Borgnine, The Wild Bunch is loosely based on Butch Cassidy’s gang and follows a group that joins with an unsavory Mexican general, agreeing to steal guns and armaments for him in exchange for a hefty sum of gold.
Throughout the film, you see members of the Bunch have each others’ backs while also serving their own personal goals. Deke, a former member, was captured by lawmen and is tasked with leading a posse to capture the rest of his former gang or return to Yuma prison.
Angel battles with the fact his people are oppressed by Mapache, the man his group agreed to steal guns for, and so, bargains to keep a crate of guns and ammo for a resistance group, despite giving up his share of the money. Others are in it for their own greed or need to pull off a bigger heist.
3:10 to Yuma
Most of the entries here and in the previous article focus on the protagonist(s). However, for this, I want to focus on the outlaw gang that works to free their leader before he’s loaded on the 3:10 train to Yuma prison.
I have not seen the original, only the remake by James Mangold starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. As Bale and a group of other volunteers accompany the sheriff while bringing Crowe to the station, the group is dogged relentlessly by Crowe’s gang and have to worry about the devious and dangerous tricks of Crowe himself, even when tied up.
And yet, despite the hardships, Crowe comes to respect Bale, his son, and their determined drive by the end shows a sense of honor that’s classic in Westerns. I expect to see a mission in which you must rescue a gang member from the law or you yourself must be rescued.
But Nick, this is Westerns. Why is there a samurai film here? They aren’t cowboys.
Well, for those who don’t already know, samurai films—especially the Kurosawa films—were immensely influential to Westerns. Cowboys share plenty in common with the ronin archetype, and the sense of honor between the two are similarly explored, not to mention the technical influences Kurosawa had in his film-making style. Plus, The Magnificent Seven is a direct adaptation of Seven Samurai, and I haven’t seen Magnificent Seven but I have seen this one. So deal with it.
Seven Samurai follows a story often seen in Westerns with posses: a village is shaken down by bandits. A ronin blows into town and eventually builds up a group that helps defend the village from the bandits while also teaching them tactics and strategies they can use to protect themselves in the future.
For a Few Dollars More
In case anyone noticed why For a Few Dollars More was missing from the previous list despite the other great Sergio Leone films included, it was because I planned it to be on this one! As you may already know, I love Leone’s spaghetti Westerns. I have a hard time deciding which is my favorite of the Man with No Name trilogy, but I think this is my favorite.
Watching Eastwood team up with Lee Van Cleef against a dangerous gang is very fun and satisfying. Even better is the final showdown scored with the pocket-sized musical box tune, serving as a countdown to justice.
You can’t finish a series of great Westerns without bringing up a film chronicling the legendary showdown at the OK Corral. This famous gunfight led by Wyatt Earp and his brothers lasted all of 30 seconds but is arguably the fight that solidified the mythical nature of the American West.
There are more films that document this fight than you can shake a stick at. However, how can you go wrong with a stellar cast featuring Kurt Russel, Bill Paxton, Sam Elliot, and Val Kilmer. Answer: You can’t.
Being the only film on my list directly based on actual events and people, you owe it to yourself to check this one out if you have any interest in Westerns.
Are you as excited for Red Dead Redemption 2 as we are? Let us know in the comments! And we’d love to hear about any awesome Westerns we missed.