Most helpful critical review
Lee Marvin makes it watchable
on November 1, 2003
For indepth plot analysis, check out some previous reviews. Most everyone knows who the characters are and what this flick is about. But it all boils down to the fact that this is a pretty square picture, made by a bunch of squares, all trying desparately to be hip and capture the essence of something entirely new and elusive, which was Beat coolness, crossed with postwar veteran angst.
The original event that this is (loosely) based on, a motorcycle rally in Hollister, CA in 1947, is very misunderstood and little known outside of biker circles. But there was a sea change underway in the American psyche - one could almost say that the 60's started there, as much as anywhere. "The Wild One" tries to capture this notion, but this film has a very tone deaf quality to it. They all know the words, but they can't carry a tune.
The one shining star here is Lee Marvin, who is (as usual) so perfect it's scary. It's like he wandered onto the set from another picture being made next door, or something, so clearly does he outclass the rest of the pack. He is worth the price of admission, and is the perfect portrait of the disillusioned WW2 vet out to By God enjoy a little of the freedom for which he endured so much hell.