Wild Rovers (1971) - full review!
Co-produced, directed AND written by Blake Edwards (!), this above average (if somewhat long and slow in spots) buddy Western starring William Holden and Ryan O'Neal also features a terrific supporting cast that includes Karl Malden, Tom Skerritt, Joe Don Baker, James Olson, and Moses Gunn (among others). Ross Bodine (Holden) and Frank Post (O'Neal) are cowboys that work at the R Bar R ranch where another cowpuncher is killed in a freak accident by a jarhead, a horse gone wild. The ranch's owner Walter Buckman (Malden) asks Bodine to take care of the dead man, transport him into to town for burial, and Post goes along as well. Though they make an unlikely pair, together they discuss how quickly one's life can be over, how their type never saves their wages to have anything more and thus never realize their dreams of having a place of their own. Encouraged by his new 'partner' half his age, Bodine agrees that the two could rob the town's bank and make their way to Mexico where they could then have their own spread, and retire to bask in the sun. Olson plays Joe Billings, the banker (Lynn Carlin, his wife).
Most of the rest of the story is the outlaws' journey, during which they're pursued by the law, some of the way, and Buckman’s two sons, eager 'crazy' John (Skerritt) and the older somewhat wiser but more reluctant Paul (Baker). Leora Dana plays Mrs. Nell Buckman, who pampered the boys more than their father would have liked. Gunn plays an ex-army buddy of Bodine's; the two bank robbers stop at his place along the way (to trade Post's puppy for a mule). Victor French plays the town's Sheriff Bill Jackson, Rachel Roberts plays Maybell, the madam of the town's cathouse, and Sam Gilman plays an old sheepman whose conflict with cattleman Buckman ends both their lives. Some other recognizable faces (e.g. from Westerns), including William Lucking and Lee DeBroux who play gamblers, are sprinkled throughout other scenes.
Edwards incorporated several artistic touches to highlight various sequences in the film which includes so many (too many?) different Western movie elements (and some new ones, like a cougar attack): breathtaking scenery and landscape shots, livestock scenes with both cattle and sheep, beautiful blue, and then clouded, skies with lightning before a rainstorm, the catching and breaking of a wild horse, a fatal (and near fatal) poker game which leads to Bodine having to crudely remove a bullet from Post by campfire light with a knife that's been sterilized in the same alcohol the patient must drink to bear it (and the later cauterization of the bullet hole wound by a steel rod heated in a fire), and a final chase & showdown which includes regret.
Michael Cimino may have borrowed from this film when he wrote and directed his similar story Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) starring Clint Eastwood in the Holden role and Jeff Bridges in the O'Neal one.