Although it's only the second movie of Sam Peckinpah, there's still can be seen a lot of his late-stage movie style. Not the iconic slow-motion action of The Wild Bunch, in fact, the film is so ordinary in terms of action scene which many westerns is grate at. But in terms of story and substance, this movie truly did a fantastic job compare with many westerns.
Right from the start, this story is different from ordinary stories. The main character in the movie wanted to transport gold so that he found a friend and his partner. Normally the storyline of an action movie would just be how they overcome all the odds and obstacles to complete the mission. But in this film, his friend and his partner want to take the gold for themselves. So there are two “dramatic forces” drive movie, both external and internal.
The reason why Sam Packinpah is called a master is that he definitely not satisfied with just wanting to tell a story full of dramatic conflict. Rather, he wanted the movie to be a little different and more meaningful than ordinary stories. So in a Western, the story has many scenes to show the heroine's journey. It's the story of a girl from a farmer family who's disciplined by her father. She was rebellious, so she run away from home with the lead character, to marry a work a worker who had proposed to her. But marriage and love were not as simple as the heroine thought, it is a process of dream crush.The vulgarity and nastiness of the workers in the gold mine made her regret her decision. But already she was in danger, and at the crucial moment, the protagonist saves her.
An ordinary film director would probably just simply shoot that the girl being bullied and the protagonist, who is tall and mighty, doing the justice. But Sam Peckinpah had a lot of details to show the psychological changes in the girl, the mine, the character of the girl's fiancé and her partner. But instead of caricaturing them to exaggerate their badness, it showed their brutality. The psychological and emotional subtlety of the female lead character is rarely touched upon in the average Western. If you think deeper about it, it's a reflection of the status of women. Women were not respected. More seriously , women are often seen by men as nothing more than sexual tools, the hero can slap them in the face if they do not agree to have sex with them. In fact this is the status of women in westerns or action movies in general, existing only as a person who looks fabulous, a cheerleader of the hero’s. Have they ever has their personality of their own? As a man, Sam Peckinpah comes across as a feminist, taking a hard swipe at men in this western.
This way of storytelling gives the story more depth, complexity and ambiguity. And so it distinguishes it from the average movie. The simple distinction between good and evil is easily clichéd, and tends to bore when the movie makes it too obvious. Watching movies is actually the same thing as cooking. Audiences don't like to eat the same old food, they always want to eat something new. Complicated and ambiguous is like eating different dishes with different flavors, but even delicious will be greasy if those dishes all task the same.
The way Sam Peckinpah deal with the friendship between men is also unique. Many creators want their work to be touching. The characters try their best to cry to react touching scene. It's not that the audience will cry just because the characters in the movie cry. The key is genuine feeling. Sam Peckinpah’s method to deal with this is very clever, the male lead character’s friend has always wanted to steal gold, but when the male lead character is in danger, he reached to save, even when the male lead character died, he decided to help the male lead to complete the mission. And the male lead character didn’t full of tears and touched, and didn’t feel own his friend because he thought that's what a friend is. You ask a friend to do something and you don't say thank you or anything, either by joking or accept it in science. When the main male character is finally shot, he didn't arrange for everyone to howl and cry and punch the wall or kick the tree in anger or anything. Just have the main male character said quietly that he wanted to be left alone and doesn't want anyone to see. So the crowd walks away and the hero fell quietly. That's how a man should be. That's the way it is with creative writing. You try very hard to make people touched, but it goes to the other direction. But if you portray the relationship between people in a realistic and vivid way, you can touch their hearts without even knowing it.