THE LONG RIDERS -- AMC Academy, Buckingham, Jefferson, Landover Mall, Marlow, Roth's Montgomery, Roth's Silver Spring West, Roth's Tyson Corner, Springfield Mall, Tenley Circle, Town and White Flint.
Sure is a lot of confusion roaming around these days on the western horizon of movieland. The new fashion, as displayed in "The Long Riders," is gray hats for everybody, and they're worn so low that the cowboys keep bumping into one another.
When the traditional uniform of black hats for Bad Guys and white hats for Good Guys was respected, Bad Guys robbed banks and patronized brothels, and Good Guys caught bank robbers and patronized pretty girls. Then styles changed, and there were white-hatted bank robbers who were daring, glamorous and misunderstood, and black-hatted law enforcers who were just too unimaginitive and mean to pull their own bank robberies. A few clever guys knew how to do the hat switch trick, for sophisticated -- or hard-to-follow -- westerns.
But "The Long Riders," proclaiming itself a new-style western, has Bad Guys who shoot innocent people but love their wives, brothers and mother, and Good Guys who have so little humanity that they don't even have relatives. The film is about the James-Younger gang being chased by the Pinkertons. With two Jameses, three Youngers and four Pinkertons, there's a total of nine Indifferent Guys in gray hats wandering about, shooting one another.
You can't really warm up to a steely-eyed outlaw who limits family loyalty to his own immediate family. Jesse James has no qualms about leaving the Youngers to die, and no bank teller survives by pleading that he himself is a family man. But James is not all bad, either, because he looks out for brother Frank, pats Mother James on the back in times of trouble, is faithful to Mrs. James and likes to kiss Jesse Jr.
It says more about our times than about James' that domestic fidelity is so highly prized as to be put forth as compensation for lawlessness. The film cleverly emphasizes this value by using fraternal groups of actors: Stacy and James Keach, who were the executive producers and worked on the script, play the James brothers; David, Keith and Robert Carradine play the Younger brothers; and Christopher and Nicholas Guest play the Ford brothers who betray James. The resemblances are amusing and give the film the appeal of a small, family-run business.
The family talents are deep stares and spectacular (but non-fatal) bleeding. One Younger is shot 11 times each time eruptting with blood, and still survives the film.
Some careful attention is given to the packaging of the product, the specialties being sunny scenery and slow-motion galloping; but it's still a family that no one but a relative could love.