In the summer of 2006, Mel Gibson was pulled over by police and charged with driving under the influence. According to the arrest report, he exploded into a virulent antisemetic rant, apropos of nothing. A couple of years later, tapes were released that appeared to corroborate claims of domestic abuse made by his then-partner, Oksana Grigorieva. He has a history of on-the-record, unrepentant homophobia and other hate speech. Anyway, he’s remaking The Wild Bunch.
Gibson’s comeback began with The Passion of the Christ, a film which was not without controversy but made also made a shit-tonne of money, and which one really matters? From there he helmed Apocalypto, and his gory, inelegant war drama Hacksaw Ridge was nominated for multiple Oscars, a move which has all but rehabilitated this toxic former star in the eyes of Hollywood.
At this point, Gibson’s volatile behaviour and unbridled aggression is being spun a different way. He’s not a violent thug, he’s transgressive and edgy. Presumably that’s why he’s been tapped to direct and co-write a remake of Sam Peckinpah’s amoral, famously violent Western for Warner Bros.
The original Wild Bunch is a bleak, nihilistic and thoroughly enjoyable revisionist Western, one which takes the question at the heart of John Ford’s The Searchers — can cowboys who know nothing but frontier justice shake their colonial mindset and trigger fingers and enter civilised society? — and runs it right off a cliff. It’s great, and nasty, and ultimately a sad and tragic film. Albeit one with some great gunfights.
Before Mel Gibson is given further chance to re-ingratiate himself in an industry he has no business being a part of with The Wild Bunch, he will direct World War II drama Destroyer with his Daddy’s Home 2 co-star Mark Wahlberg, because you can’t really do anything so bad that Hollywood won’t eventually forgive you.