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INDEFINITE

Fake-blood technology just wasn’t as sophisticated in 1969 as it is today, a new look at Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch reveals. In just about every other respect, though, this anti-epic was seminal. The nihilism of the grizzled, dirt-caked outlaws and bounty hunters (who include William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, and Warren Oates) remains bracing, and the staging and editing of the action set pieces are stunning and occasionally delirious. The MPAA was going to rate this director’s cut “NC-17” before it discovered it had already deemed it “R” 25 years ago, but the added 10 minutes of footage don’t add to the carnage so much as to the poignant contrasts to it. This is, after all, an elegy for an era and a genre, and not merely a bloodbath. And if Lucien Ballard’s cinematography is more compelling than the dialogue, that just confirms the film’s place as the harbinger of a new generation of visually savvy action directors. At the Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue, 4000 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 842-7789. (Mark Jenkins)