The Long Riders is striking in several ways, not the least of which being the casting of actor brothers as historical outlaw kin, but narrative is episodic in the extreme.
Yarn opens in bang-up fashion with a bank robbery, after which trigger-happy Dennis Quaid is kicked out of the Younger-James-Miller gang for needlessly murdering a man during stick-up. With no time frame provided, pic proceeds by alternating scenes of further crimes, the men at play in whorehouses and courting women, and the law bungling initial attempts to capture the troublemakers.
Director Walter Hill resolutely refuses to investigate the psychology or motivations of his characters, explaining away men’s life of banditry as a ‘habit’ acquired in wake of the Civil War.
What’s ultimately missing is a definable point of view which would tie together the myriad events on display and fill in the blanks which Hill has imposed on the action by sapping it of emotional or historical meaning.