Cincinnati Babyhead

Speaks his mind on music & movies!

Movie : Junior Bonner

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We open on a cowboy on the back of a bull in a rodeo. He gets busted up pretty good. We see him after, limping and nursing his injuries. He licks his wounds and heads off to his next rodeo in Prescott in his Caddy pulling his horse trailer. JR. Bonner is painted on his horse trailer. We find out Prescott is his home town and he’s a fading rodeo hero. JR checks up on his family and finds some changes, not all to his liking. The two main things on his mind are chasing down his dad, Ace Bonner, and getting a chance to ride the black bull that busted him up in the previous rodeo. We spend the next few days with JR as he gets ready for his bull ride, taking in what’s left of his rodeo glory days and hanging with the Bonner family and their dreams, faded dreams in some cases.

CB was a big McQueen and Peckinpah fan so he went to this one no problem. It wasn’t the usual ride. Toned down.  Most of the action takes place in the rodeo ring.  The rest is played out in the relationships in the Bonner family. Sam catches the subtleties of changing times. One of the themes he explores in his films. With Lucien Ballard catching his vision, Peckinpah takes us on a trip into the rodeo world. He had his finger on the pulse of this life. You feel you are there attending the events. One of the things CB likes about movies is they take you to a time and place. Sam catches a real piece of Americana, almost documentary style.

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Sam uses locals in the cast and sprinkles in his usual good casting. Joe Don Baker, Dub Taylor, Ben Johnson ( a no brainer for a rodeo flick). Ida Lupino as Junior’s mom is perfect casting. A woman who  gave her life to the men in it and sacrificed herself. Ida has the weight and truth to carry it. You believe she’s the mother and the wife of this family. Great work. Robert Preston as Ace Bonner is a lovable loser. When you cast actors like this it makes the directors job easy.

McQueen never comes across as a pretend hollywood tough guy. You believe he’s a hardened cowboy. He doesn’t come across as the hero. He’s on his way out and he knows it more than anyone. There’s no future in it. Times are changing and he’s getting left behind. But like an addict when he gets on the back of an animal he’s in his world. The only one he’s ever known. He plays things with his usual realism and naturalism. No acting involved.

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This is an understated film that will take you in, it did CB. So slap on a cowboy hat, pull on some boots, grab a beer and head down to the rodeo for some real old time Americana. Be careful not to step in any cow shit.

(Spoiler alert. There is an old time John Ford bar room brawl. You have to let Sam tip his hat)

 

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27 comments on “Movie : Junior Bonner

  1. Yeah, Another Blogger
    July 22, 2018

    Morning, CB. Another film with McQueen that has a real-life feel to it is LeMans.

    There’s a new cowboy movie that I’m pretty sure you’d like. It’s called The Rider. I saw it a few months ago.

    I’ll be tuning into the British Open shortly. Bye —

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      July 22, 2018

      Steve had a pretty high batting average with me. Yes Le Mans is in the same vein.
      I will check out ‘The Rider’. Thanks for the lead.
      I’m check a bit of the Open if it’s not over. Later. CB

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 1537
    July 22, 2018

    I think I saw about half of this once late at night when I was about 13 when both my parents were out.

    I sort of filed it mentally with Five Easy Pieces; tightly or wrongly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      July 22, 2018

      Stories of two messed up families. I’d rather hang with the Bonners. More fun.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 1537
        July 22, 2018

        Less awesome piano action though.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        July 22, 2018

        Lots of cools stuff in 5 Easy Pieces. A take for sure. Kaen Black is great. Lots of great scenes. No rodeo action. But there is a fight.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. J.
    July 22, 2018

    You know this is one of my favourite flicks, right? That opening scene is just perfect and you’re spot on with this being a beautifully captured piece of Americana. I also think it feels like a documentary at times… the acting and the inclusion of the locals really made the drama and tension genuine. Plus, McQueen… the guy was way ahead of the game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      July 22, 2018

      We are both in the choir on this one. There is something special about this film. Sam had a real feel for this stuff and these people. It helps when you get a guy like McQueen on board. If there was ever perfect casting this was is an example. The bar fight is a little out there but sam liked a good fight and a drink. The wild cow milking scene I absolutely love especially that “Damn dog”. There’s a good idea J. get over here and we’ll get all juiced up and enter one of those babies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • J.
        July 23, 2018

        A filmmaker who captured the essence of a story and its surroundings, for sure. Always feels real… that’s what I love about Sam’s movies. And like you say, it helps when McQueen’s there. He always looked the part.

        And aye, I’ll get myself over at some point to partake in some Sam shenanigans.

        Like

  4. greenpete58
    July 23, 2018

    I love McQueen, and admire Peckinpah’s talent, but I think I abandoned this movie around the time of the barroom brawl. If I recall, there was a really uncomfortable bit with a drunken Indian. Maybe I’ll have to give the flick another look, but I’m real sensitive to that stuff. Also, the “good ole cowboy” schtick I’ve seen soooo many times before. This movie looked like something that McQueen and Peckinpah had a lot of fun with, but I don’t think it’s one of their better individual achievements. I thought “The Rounders” was a better rodeo movie… but it lacked the King of Cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      July 23, 2018

      You really liked huh? I know the scene you’re talking about. I didn’t find it that bad. I did find the brawl a bit (more than) out of place and cornball.. I think this was one of Sams last movies where he had it together for the most part. He was questioning that “good ole cowboy” thing and change.. The relationships in the family rang true to me. Ida wore the brunt of the glory days not being so glorious. Steve questioning them , Preston, lost cause and Shorty selling out. I guess i liked it a little more. I also dug the actual rodeo scenes. You know I’m a closet cowboy Pete.
      I’d be interested how you’d take the Rounders today? You know I stick with things I dig. No better cowboy than Fonda especially in Ox Bow.

      Like

      • greenpete58
        July 23, 2018

        I read that “Junior Bonner” would’ve done better at the box office had there not been a glut of rodeo movies at that time. “The Rounders” was much earlier (1965). Like Peckinpah’s film, good clean fun and low-key. I also enjoyed the Sedona, AZ scenery. I think we’re both “closet cowboys.” I’d love to have been born and raised on a ranch.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        July 23, 2018

        I love those landscapes. And yes the cowboy life is a romantic one for sure.

        Like

  5. greenpete58
    July 23, 2018

    Here’s a good review of the movie (in addition to yours, CB). Peckinpah’s “most underrated film” has some good elements that I missed out on, so I’ll have to see it again: https://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review/junior-bonner

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      July 23, 2018

      Just read it and Chuck nailed it in my opinion. It really is those things he says and points out. He just says them a little more eloquently than CB (CB casts himself back to his initial experience). Sam really gets a bad rap for all the violence etc. He was so much more of a subtle filmmaker who had his finger on things and Chuck gives him his due. After reading that i want to watch it again. There is some real good filmmaking going on in This film. That opening sequence Chuck was talking about. No dialogue and you get it. Great stuff. Forgive the cornball shit. Great input as usual Pete.
      Is this review from a source you trust? I am leary on most sources.

      Like

      • greenpete58
        July 23, 2018

        I know nothing about the source! Just thought it was a good review, and like yours, pointed out things I missed. I’ll be returning to this movie.

        Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        July 23, 2018

        I like reviews like that (not just because we agree). He really caught the vibe. I spent some of my youth in those kinds of communities. I felt I was in Prescott at the rodeo watching the film. One of the things I liked about both McQueen and Peckinpah was they were anti Hollywood and tried to get to some kind of truth. At the end of the day it still has a have a story that draws me in. Jr. did that. Interested what a revisit will do for your take. Later fella.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Jim S.
    July 23, 2018

    I never saw this but I recognize the name. Peckinpah/McQueen. Worth a look. Ida Lupino! Can’t remember the last time I heard that name. She was in one of the first Bogie movies I ever saw, ‘High Sierra.’ Great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cincinnatibabyhead
      July 24, 2018

      Ida has a few miles on her in this one but she has the chops and presence to pull it off. Great woman character. She just put her saddle on the wrong horse in Ace. ‘High Sierra’ is a good one. Miss Lupino was a talented gal. Directed also.
      Sam and Steve were a good match. Come on Doc, I did a take on this film so you gotta know I dug it. Another one of those great films from the 70’s.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thom Hickey
    July 24, 2018

    Watched this again last week. Total delight. Fantastic cast. Thom.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on July 22, 2018 by in 1972 movie, Ben Johnson, Drama, Lucien Ballard, Sam Peckinpah, Steve McQueen, Western and tagged , , , .

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