Junior Bonner is not your typical Sam Peckinpah movie, but do not let that scare you away from this movie. J.R. Bonner is a well-known rodeo cowboy on the last legs of his rodeo career. Returning to his hometown of Prescott, Arizona for Frontier Days, the annual 4th of July celebration, Bonner finds that everything he knew before has changed. His father refuses to take responsibility for his life, instead always looking for a way to make easy money while alienating his wife. J.R.'s brother has become a real estate afficionado and is only worried about the bottom line. At the same time, JR has a burning desire to finish off strong by riding and conquering the rodeo's meanest bull for the full eight seconds. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this movie. It is a very understated, self-reflexive film, unlike some of Peckinpah's other films. It is an excellent story about changing times and a family's effort to survive those changes. If you like the teaming of star Steve McQueen and director Sam Peckinpah, check out their other collaboration together, The Getaway. I highly recommend both movies.
Steve McQueen is great as the quiet rodeo cowboy, Junior Bonner, who finds everything in his life is changing, and he can do very little about it. During his career, McQueen perfected the quiet, loner type, and this is a perfect example. Robert Preston is also very good as Ace Bonner, JR's father who refuses to let anyone or anything change him. Ida Lupino plays Elvira Bonner, JR's mother who will not forgive Ace for going out on his own and leaving his family. Peckinpah regular Ben Johnson plays Buck Roan, Junior's good friend and owner of the rodeo. Joe Don Baker plays Curly, Junior's real estate brother. The movie also stars Barbara Leigh, Mary Murphy, Bill McKinney, and Dub Taylor. The DVD offers widescreen presentation and commentary from three Sam Peckinpah biographers. For another great pairing of Steve McQueen and Sam Peckinpah, check out Junior Bonner!