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Bad Company (1972)

by on 2013/06/08

Bad Company_1972“I shot and ate a skunk today.”

* * *

People who romanticize living “back to the land” always seem a little hilarious to me. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, Northern Alberta, and we lived pretty rough.

My neighbours were even more rustic. One family ate squirrels. In my experience, folks who lived truly back to the land were dirty, ate poorly, suffered untreated ailments, smelled really bad and were missing lots (and lots) of teeth.

Bad Company grapples with the reality of living off the land as well as trials of young men dodging the draft during the U.S. Civil War. The result is a movie so painfully believable, so excruciatingly realistic it will make you squirm. In fact, this film is practically a documentary about the worst camping trip on horseback across country – ever.

You get to watch a really young-looking Jeff Bridges (Troneat stolen window sill pies, engage in fist fights a la They Live, and kill and skin a rabbit in real-time.

About a filthy, poorly-organized, badly-equipped band of young draft dodgers, the film follows Drew Dixon (Barry Brown) a nice boy whose parents can’t stand to lose another son to the war.

Given as much money as his parents can spare, a clean, upright Drew sets out West. Crime, temptation, starvation, beatings, shootings, filth and general perdition greets him along the road.

Most of Drew’s troubles are visited upon him by his erstwhile “friend” Jake Rumsey (Bridges) who is an Artful Dodger and leader to the rag-tag group of youngsters on the lam from the Union army.

Directed by Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer), this is road movie takes us down some winding pathways to troubling vignettes. A failed farmer sells his wife’s fading favours to the young band for $8. The gang is robbed of their beans, road jerky and meagre earnings by a bunch of moronic criminals. The theft of a pie turns into an execution.

Every moment is a slice of mud-caked, stinking reality.

The real interest of this film came from watching Barry Brown, an actor with a genius IQ who died too young of suicide. His portrayal of a bookish, Christian man driven to all sorts of bad acts by desperation and fear was compelling. He narrates the action with his letters home and his diary entries.  Jeff Bridges is an actor I love and he doesn’t disappoint as an arrogant, incompetent leader who can’t catch a break.

Most of all, this film was a great reminder to me to never, ever, ever go camping again. Ever.

* * *

93 minutes

Rated 14A for pimping out the farmer’s wife, bloody violence and foul language

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