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5.0 out of 5 stars Peckingpah�s unassuming contemporary western
Junior Bonner is one of Peckingpah's more personal films. Here, as in The Wild Bunch and Ride the High Country, he continues his exploration of men living in eras where their success is in the past. This isn't the typically violent fare of most Pechingpah films, instead he brings a gentleness (for him) to the story.
Steve McQueen is excellent as JR Bonner, an aging...
Published on Nov. 1 2002 by Virgil

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3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual Peckinpah
It's hard to believe Sam Peckinpah directed this very calm and naturalistic movie. In some ways it seems more like a Robert Altman film, with it's easy going, almost improvisational feel. As the aging rodeo star reunited at his home town's "Frontier Days Celebration," Steve McQueen is right on target. His performance is completely believable as are the other...
Published on Nov. 10 2000 by Stephen Reginald


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4.0 out of 5 stars Another great teaming of McQueen and Peckinpah, July 9 2004
By 
T O'Brien (Chicago, Il United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Junior Bonner (Widescreen) (DVD)
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!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still workin' on 8 seconds......, Nov. 16 2002
By 
Chris K. Wilson "Chris Kent" (Dallas, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Junior Bonner [Import] (DVD)
As a big fan of film director Sam Peckinpah and actor Steve McQueen, I always thought I had seen their most substantial work. Much to my surprise, I viewed the 1972 film "Junior Bonner" for the first time recently and was stunned by its quality and depth. "Junior Bonner" is a terrific film, complete with Peckinpah's individualistic themes, McQueen's understated though electric presence, magnificient location detail, boozy saloons and elder statesmen (and women) coming to terms with a rapidly receding past.
A genre unto itself, the rodeo lifestyle was documented with surprising fervor in the early 1970s by a handful of interesting films including "Honkers," "J.W. Coop," and "When the Legends Die." Each film explored the themes of a changing civilization which embraced convention while muting individualism and personal freedom. Thus, Peckinpah and McQueen were truly in their element with "Junior Bonner."
The film covers a day in the life of Junior Bonner (McQueen), an aging rodeo star who returns to his Arizona hometown to participate in an annual rodeo competition. We are soon introduced to his family, including his estranged parents (Robert Preston and Ida Lupino) and his budding businessman brother (Joe Don Baker) looking to profit from the sale of his father's land while exploiting the frontier/cowboy persona.
"Junior Bonner" is so understated, that the viewer must read between the lines throughout its brief running time, including a fascinating dinner scene with McQueen, Lupino and Baker when they discuss the family's future. It is a moment of brilliant directing and acting.
Ironically, what is probably the least seen film of Peckinpah and McQueen's careers is also one of their best. Peckinpah has never before been so restrained, if not gentle. Known for his fierce action sequences in such films as "The Wild Bunch" and "The Getaway," Peckinpah utilizes his detailed, frenzied style during the exciting rodeo sequences. But his handling of the more intimate moments, especially those between Preston and Lupino, are some of his most gentle scenes he ever put on film. In many ways, Preston's character is just a scruffy version of Peckinpah himself - a deeply flawed but eventually loveable dreamer. It is Peckinpah opening up to the viewer for one of the few times in his career.
McQueen, likewise, plays a character very close to him as a man. The role of Junior Bonner is that of a gregarious loner, limping from the hard knocks of life, trying to quietly go about his business but discovering he can do anything but. His accent, his mannerisms and his reactions to everyday life always ring with a note of truth. It's absolutely one of his finest performances.
Perhaps the film's only fault is the rather abrupt ending which seems to come out of nowhere. It's unconventional, but then again, so were Peckinpah and McQueen. Unheralded, and relatively unknown, "Junior Bonner" is a great film ripe for discovery. Quiet, unassuming and good natured, "Junior Bonner" is a perfect display of two legendary motion picture talents (Peckinpah, McQueen) exploring themes perhaps closer to their hearts than any film they ever made.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Peckingpah�s unassuming contemporary western, Nov. 1 2002
This review is from: Junior Bonner [Import] (DVD)
Junior Bonner is one of Peckingpah's more personal films. Here, as in The Wild Bunch and Ride the High Country, he continues his exploration of men living in eras where their success is in the past. This isn't the typically violent fare of most Pechingpah films, instead he brings a gentleness (for him) to the story.
Steve McQueen is excellent as JR Bonner, an aging rodeo rider and semi-drifter. The rest of the cast include Robert Preston doing a dynamic job as his father Ace, Ida Lupino as his mother Elvira and Joe Don Baker as his brother, Curly.
We slowly become familiar with the family and their divided past. Ace is getting on in years and wants one last chance at adventure in Australia. Elvira, his long suffering wife, just seems to be riding it out while Curly is "on his way to his first million..." There's tension between them but there is also affection, especially between JR and his father.
Junior Bonner is a wonderfully understated western, well recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars King McQueen, Aug. 21 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Junior Bonner [Import] (DVD)
I saw this with my father when I was a teenager as we are both fans of the western.The modern setting still makes it a classic western in my eyes .The themes explored by Peckinpah are nicely handled and no need for the usual violence . The Chemistry between all the principal players works brilliantly , this is how acting should be. In particular McQueen , still the "King Of Cool" , and the great Robert Preston who was never better than he is here . I wasn't surprised to read that this was Peckinpah's personal favourite of all his movies , subtle by his standards . If you haven't seen it check it out .
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5.0 out of 5 stars "I`m a rodeo man...", Aug. 16 2002
This review is from: Junior Bonner (VHS Tape)
For someone like me,who was unfamiliar with modern-day westerns until I watched "Junior Bonner",this was a very pleasant surprise.
The story is fascinating,and Junior`s fight to beat Sunshine the bull and become the best of the best at the rodeo in Prescott,Arizona,is very exciting.The thrill,the danger and the true Americanness of the rodeo is explored through great filming and the use of some fine acting indeed-especcially that of Steve McQueen,who portrays Junior,and who manages very well to show that he is a true hero even when having to fight the feeling of not belonging and not making a name for himself where he would love to make it-at the rodeo as well as among the members of his family.This rodeo man is and remains a winner all the way,and his story is highly recommended!
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5.0 out of 5 stars "There's One Of Him, and One of Me--", Feb. 3 2002
This review is from: Junior Bonner [Import] (DVD)
The true individual will carve out a niche for himself in life, and gravitate toward those endeavors or communities most conducive to maintaining that autonomy which is to that person, all important. For some, it can be a life's work, the occupation of seeking out and accepting whatever challenge will take them down their own road. And who could better personify such a man than Steve McQueen, who plays the title role in "Junior Bonner," director Sam Peckinpah's character study of a man so determined to live life on his own terms that the only challenge that means anything to him is the one he makes with himself. When Junior says, "Rodeo time, I gotta get it on down the road," it's his way of saying, "Life awaits." His life; and he's working it in such a way that whenever he gets to the end, he's going to be able to look back and say unequivocally, "I did it my way." That's the challenge. That's Junior Bonner.
He's been a rodeo cowboy most of his life; a former champion-- like his dad, Ace Bonner (Robert Preston)-- he's worn out and weary, but not down. The glory days may be behind him, but that's not what it was ever all about anyway, at least not for Junior. And who he is and what he's all about becomes perfectly clear when the circuit takes him back home to Prescott, Arizona, for a Fourth of July show. When he hits town, Junior approaches Buck Roan, the man who owns the rodeo stock and will be overseeing the draw for the bull ride; Junior wants to ride Sunshine, the meanest, toughest bull in the bunch, and he's willing to pay for the privilege-- he'll pay to ride the very bull that most cowboys would pay to stay off of. But the way Junior puts it, "There's one of him, and one of me. I need it--"
In the meantime, Junior reconnects with his family: Ace, who is still looking for that gold ring, living on the memories of his forty plus years riding the rodeo, and dreaming of a new start in Australia; Elvira (Ida Lupino), his mom, who has long suffered Ace's fantasies; and his brother, Curley (Joe Don Baker), a successful entrepreneur who wants Junior to hang up the rodeo and come to work for him selling mobile homes-- which he has to know is never going to happen. The difference between Curley and Junior, in fact, is summed up when Curley says to him, "I'm working on my first million, you're still working on eight seconds..."
Stylistically rendered, Peckinpah's film is affecting, and at times almost disarmingly sincere. Junior's relationship with Ace, for example, is so subtly underscored with honesty that it rings true-to-life and gives a perspective to both characters that is contextually invaluable. The way Peckinpah presents it is definitive, as is the way in which Junior relates to Elvira, Curley, and even the rodeo itself. It's Peckinpah's way of examining the individualist, beginning with the outstanding screenplay by Jeb Rosebrook, then by setting a perfect pace and utilizing some imaginative split-screen photography and slow motion shots to great effect. And, as with all of Peckinpah's films, there's a sense of violence-- understated here, less pronounced than that of say, "The Wild Bunch"-- but present, nevertheless; you can feel it, lying just beneath the surface of all that's happening, but definitely there. You can see it in the confrontation between the cowboys and the bulls they ride; in the way Junior lives his life, that constant challenge of man against beast or against nature; or in the bulldozers razing an old ranch house, grinding down the old and weak in favor of the new and the strong. It's pure Peckinpah, and it's brilliant filmmaking.
Tough, adamant, iconoclastic; Steve McQueen was the perfect choice for the role of Junior. One of the most underrated actors ever, he has a daunting magnetism and a commanding screen presence that allows him to dominate any scene if he so chooses, and he doesn't have to be the guy doing the talking to do it. Consider his scenes with Preston; Ace may have the lines, but your attention is drawn to and focused on Junior. And everything McQueen does tells you something about who Junior is, from the way he walks-- has he spent a lifetime astride broncos and bulls? You bet-- to the way his hat sits on his head. It's the kind of natural and detailed performance that sets McQueen apart, and looking back on this character, and on his whole body of work, you can say without hesitation that he did it his way. This is one gifted, singular actor who never gives less than 110%. And there will never be another like him.
Preston, too, is memorable as Ace, a man who, if not larger than life himself, has dreams that are. You can tell Junior is cut from the same cloth, though Ace still thinks there's going to be gold for the taking around the next bend, if only he can get there. Junior, though, has been there and knows there's nothing around that bend but the next rodeo-- which for him is enough. The biggest difference between them is the fact that Ace still seems to have the need to prove himself to the world, while Junior has nothing to prove to anyone but himself. There's something of "The Music Man's" Prof. Harold Hill in Ace, but overall Ace is unique, and Preston plays him to perfection.
An absorbing drama that captures a sense of time and place that no longer seems to exist, "Junior Bonner" is a glimpse at a dying breed, the individual who takes life head-on without trying to put a spin or a "politically correct" perspective on it. Like Junior said, "There's one of him, and one of me." And that about sums it up. It's the magic of the movies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You Can't Take Your Eyes Off His!, Oct. 24 2001
By 
Robert M. Khoury (Across the street from Central Park) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Junior Bonner [Import] (DVD)
Did Steve McQueen ever deliver a bad performance on film? This film is no exception. Although it is rarely shown on TV, due to its subject matter, and the huge popularity of McQueen's action films, this is a wonderful film. The cast is wonderful, beginning, of course, with McQueen, and the characters are deep and personal. You won't be able to find a single flaw in their performances or the "little" story. It's about a man who is still doing his best to be true to old-fashioned values and ideals that the modern world has forgotten and discarded. Follow McQueen's eyes, always. Don't take your eyes off his. His eyes will tell you the story in every one of his films. I believe this is one of his best performances simply because there is so much of the man in the character he portrays. Read a McQueen biography. There are several that are worthy. He was the last film star with charisma. (I don't know what it is either, but I know it when I see it.) All I know is that his best work was done in roles like this one, when he portrays characters that are out of their proper time, and misplaced in a world that no longer values, and has no place for, honor, integrity, courage, loyalty, honesty, humility, dedication, or even knows where they come from. When I watch a Steve McQueen film like this one (The Getaway is another example) it makes me feel good. It's not because he is always the victor, or because the "bad guys" are always defeated, but because he makes trying to live by those ideals, and never giving up, look so honorable and so noble that it makes me want to keep trying, too. He makes me feel that it's better to live life his way, and be a loser, than to be a success in a world without feeling, meaning, or emotion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Easygoing, Charming Experience, Oct. 2 2001
By 
Albert J. Mora (Corona, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Junior Bonner [Import] (DVD)
If you're a McQueen fan (like me), order this DVD.
This is a secret gem because it is not frequently played on the air as are many McQueen movies.
The Bonners - Ida Lupino, Robert Preston, Joe Don Baker, and Steve - give a geniune Texas-family feel. The 4th of July parade appears perfectly real because it was real - you couldn't have staged such realism. The rodeo scenes are beautifully terrifying. The humor is nice and easy, not over-the-top. And Steve is in fantastic condition, spry as a young cat, though he was in his early-40s when it was filmed.
Make popcorn, sit down with your kids, turn it on, and get your mind off the whole world for awhile.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Day Cowboy Picture, July 28 2001
By 
D. Blackdeer (Kansas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Junior Bonner [Import] (DVD)
Good show with Steve McQueen as former rodeo champion Junior Bonner who is past his prime and at the crossroads of life on whether he'll retire, or continue chasing the eight-second buzzer in rodeo competition. He returns to his home in Prescott, Arizona, to compete in the oldest rodeo on the circuit and have another shot at a champion bull that defeated him in previous competition. This is also a homecoming for JR and he unfortunately he finds his father, Ace Bonner (portrayed by Robert Preston), penniless and separated from his mother (Ida Lupino). Mixed into this story is his younger brother Curly (Jo Don Baker), working on his first million as a successful real estate developer and who shrewdly bought their father's ranch for a steal and sold it to a gravel company.
It's a bittersweet reunion, with JR unable to help his father and tensions running high between him and Curly. Curly looks down on JR and Ace as washed-up old rodeo stars who failed to move with the times. Ace and JR live for the cowboy experience and money doesn't appear to be an issue as long as there's enough to get by and neither acknowledges Curly's success with any respect. For the moment however, there's a big rodeo to attend and that's all that matters for Ace and JR.
This is a nice movie by director Sam Peckingpah, better known for his violence-packed features, portraying a father and son who were probably better suited for the 1800s, but accept life as it comes in a modern day world. Steve McQueen fits this role nicely as the likeable and noble rodeo star still trying his best. The presence of Robert Preston and Ida Lupino, and Ben Johnson as a cattle stockowner, reinforce a romantic western theme. A good country music soundtrack, excellent rodeo footage, and the location at Prescott, Arizona, round this out to an appealing feature.
DVD imagery is very good and in letterbox format, music and sound are likewise. For those interested, Prescott is a nice place to visit and the local people, to their credit, have preserved the historical downtown area.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Peckinpah in relaxed mode, July 18 2001
By 
Erik North (San Gabriel, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Junior Bonner (VHS Tape)
Can Sam Peckinpah make a film about the human condition that doesn't involve bullets and bloodbaths? JUNIOR BONNER answers that question with an unequivocal "Yes!"
This contemporary western stars Steve McQueen as a once-proud rodeo star who has had more of a habit of losing than of winning the big shows. He comes home to Prescott, Arizona, home of the nation's oldest existing rodeo celebration, intending on breaking his losing streak. But he finds too much has changed: his family's old ranch is being turned by his older brother (Joe Don Baker) into a mobile-home park; his mother (Ida Lupino) and father (Robert Preston) are no longer on speaking terms; and his own values have become painfully antiquated.
Even this film's ending is deceptively ambiguous: McQueen DOES win the big prize at the rodeo by riding the meanest bull around and staying on for the required eight seconds, but this means he won't be able to stay. As Lupino asks, before he parts: "Ya had to win, didn'tcha?"
Except for the rodeo scenes and one amazingly-staged fight in the local bar, Peckinpah eschews his tricks for a story that practically anyone can relate to. Although JUNIOR BONNER wasn't that well recognized in its time (due to poor distribution and Peckinpah's violent reputation), it has excellent performances from McQueen, Preston, and Lupino, as well as Ben Johnson as the stock contractor who oversees McQueen's progress with sympathy.
This is a must-have for anyone interested in westerns, whether authentic or contemporary, and in Peckinpah; it was proof positive that he could do a story that didn't require any squibs.
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Junior Bonner (Widescreen)
Junior Bonner (Widescreen) by Sam Peckinpah (DVD - 2004)
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