Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

If He’d Pay Me What He’s Spending to Make Me Stop Robbing Him, I’d Stop Robbing Him!

The impetus for today’s review came from amidst my birthday movie genre contest.  By the time I had finally reached the Western category, I had gotten my opinions on movies questioned and ridiculed so much that I started to doubt my decision to pick the Quick and the Dead.  I’m actually a very delicate creature, after all.  As a result, I did research on other potential candidates for westerns to see if there were any I wasn’t thinking of.  In the end, I realized that I was forgetting my lifelong “fuck you guys” strategy in regards to people disagreeing with my opinions and went with my original choice, but one more did catch my attention from my research.  When I later came across the BluRay of the same movie for only $8, it seemed fortuitous.  And that leads us inexorably to my review of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, written by William Goldman, directed by George Roy Hill, and starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Jeff Corey, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, George Furth, Cloris Leachman, Ted Cassidy, Kenneth Mars, and Donnelly Rhodes.

In short, this movie is the story of Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).  Is it an accurate story of Butch and Sundance?  How the hell should I know?!  Butch is the talker; he always has a plan and he can often talk his way out of situations.  If that doesn’t work, Sundance is the one that kills people with guns, and does so really well.  In the beginning, the duo – along with their gang, the Hole-in-the-Wall gang – are comfortable with just robbing banks and train cars, but eventually their continued robberies on the same money owned by E. H. Harriman leads Harriman to hire a renowned Indian tracker called “Lord Baltimore” and a relentless lawman named Joe LeFors.  After barely escaping with their lives, Butch decides that he and Sundance should move to Bolivia along with Sundance’s girlfriend, school teacher Etta Place (Katharine Ross).  There, they resume robbing banks after Etta teaches them enough Spanish to get the job done.  But, it’s only a matter of time until their robbing ways catch up with them.

The research I did was right: this is indeed a really good movie.  There are a couple of things that date the movie in a really weird way, but it holds up very well for the most part.  The basic premise of the story probably just comes from the legends of the characters the movie’s based on, but the added stuff – like the little moments, the dialogue, and the chemistry between Butch and Sundance – all sell the movie even more.  The bulk of the story happens in about three parts.  It starts off with everything being relatively peachy for the gang as they rob banks.  They then spend a very good amount of time on the run from Lord Baltimore (which I, of course, heard Lord Voldemort) and LeFors (who I thought was a character from Mallrats).  And then it ends up a lot like the first part in a more colorful setting.  The story itself doesn’t impress in any grand way, but the dialogue and the characters charmed me.  I first got on board when one of the members of the gang tried to stage a coup on Butch by way of a knife fight.  Butch says, “Let’s get the rules straight,” to which the would-be leader replies, “There’s no rules in a knife fight,” and Butch responds with a kick to the balls, saying, “Well if there’s no rules, then let’s get to fighting.”  Later, when Butch is trying to explain to Sundance why they should jump off of a cliff into the water to escape their pursuers, he says, “Would you make a jump like that if you didn’t have to?” and Sundance responds, “I have to make the jump and I’m still not gonna.”  I would definitely admit that there are a few parts to this movie that really date it and waste the time of the audience at the same time, like the part where Etta and Butch are riding a bicycle.  “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” is playing while they’re doing it, and there’s really not any purpose to the scene.  And, if you know the song, it really doesn’t have any place in a western.  In fact, it happened on more than one occasion that the music seemed to fit more in the time the movie was filmed than the time the movie was set in, and I just found it very distracting.  There was also a part where Butch was trying to enjoy the company of a prostitute, but kept getting distracted by Sundance, who was looking out the window to see if they were still being pursued.  Butch kept criticizing Sundance for doing it, but what is the alternative here?  Turn around and watch you bang a whore?  I’ll stick to my window, thankyouverymuch.

I was very fond of the look of the movie as well.  At first I was worried because it seemed like it was going to be in black and white, and those movies tend to be boring, at least visually.  But it just starts out in sepia tone and turns to color.  And the color is mostly great, especially once they get to Bolivia and the scenery is prettier.  They also went for some artistic shots that I usually find pretentious, but I actually liked the few they went for here.  One example is right as the group is leaving for Bolivia and Butch pushes the bicycle out into a small stream, leaving the camera watching the slowly turning bike tire as the color turned back to sepia for a bit.  They also had a cool bit of montage as Butch, Sundance, and Etta were robbing banks in Bolivia where the scenes were played without the sound of the scene, relying only on the physical performance of the actors, but it was done so well that you could tell exactly what was going on in the scene.  Granted, this was one of those occasions where the music was distractingly out of place, but it didn’t stop me from being impressed with everything else.  The action in this movie was spread out pretty far, having only a few sparse moments of fist fights and/or gun fights, but the ones they had were enjoyable.  Sundance killed people like a boss on more than one occasion, and it was a pleasure to watch.

There really weren’t that many performances to pay any mind to in this movie, but the ones that were all did excellent jobs.  The three people worth paying attention to were Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katharine Ross, and all of them were great.  Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy was extremely charming, and Robert Redford’s Sundance Kid was a total badass.  Both of them were exceptionally likeable, even though they were technically bad guys.  Katharine Ross didn’t really give me anything to say as she wasn’t in the movie that often, but she was good when she was there.  I did get curious for a time about who in the group she was technically with, or if she was just being passed around between Butch and Sundance, but that was about all I had on her.

I’m generally not big on older movies, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a flat out good movie.  The story keeps you involved almost the entire way through, though it wastes a little bit of time with a couple of needless scenes, most specifically involving a bicycle.  But I really liked the main characters and the chemistry they had together, and the action, though rare, was pretty awesome.  Lots of fun to be had in this movie and I really enjoyed the ride.  I definitely recommend you check out this movie, through whatever method you can.  I was able to pick this movie up at Best Buy for only $8, and it’s more than worth it.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid gets “Small price to pay for beauty” out of “Oh, good.  For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Conan the Destroyer (1984)

I Suppose Nothing Hurts You.  Only Pain.

The inevitable continuation of reviewing Conan the Barbarian is Conan the Destroyer.  When I went into Conan 1, I was well aware of what I was getting myself into.  I had watched the movie again not long before I started reviewing movies, so my memory of it was pretty clear.  Going into Conan 2, I wasn’t even sure that I had ever seen it before, even though I owned it as part of a two pack with the first movie.  But, as it was part of Chris’ request, I sat down to see if I had ever seen the sequel.  And that is today’s review.  Conan the Destroyer was based on characters created by Robert E. Howard, written by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, directed by Richard Fleischer, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia d’Abo, Sarah Douglas, Wilt Chamberlain, Tracey Walter, Mako, Grace Jones, Pat Roach, Jeff Corey, and Andre “The Giant” Roussimouff.

Conan the Cimmerian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and his travelling companion Malak the thief (Tracey Walter), are praying at an altar when they are attacked by the guards of Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas).  After they pass the test of their guards, the Queen offers a quest to Conan.  If he accomplishes the task of escorting her niece, Jehnna (Olivia d’Abo), and the Queen’s guard, Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain), to retrieve a magical horn that only Jehnna can touch, Conan will be rewarded by having his love, Valeria, brought back to life.  But, before they leave, the Queen privately instructs Bombaata to kill Conan once the horn has been retrieved so that he won’t be around to stop them from sacrificing Jehnna to awaken the dreaming god Dagoth.  Also, he’s going to have to keep an eye on her because she needs to remain a virgin and Conan would most likely knock the bottom out on that girl.  The group sets off, making a pit stop to save the life of a crazy Amazonian chick named Zula (Grace Jones), who then joins them on their quest.

This movie’s really not a whole lot better than its predecessor.  It’s a different story, and a fine one, but it’s not the greatest thing ever.  Much as with the first movie, it never really feels like the writers were able to keep focused.  They have the one driving plot of the princess getting the horn, the side plot about the secret sacrifice, and then a couple of other things that seemed like distractions.  Finding Zula was a scene that took about 15 minutes longer than it should have taken given its relative lack of importance to the main plot.  The part with Conan getting drunk and chatting with the princess didn’t need to happen, as did the part with the princess trying to learn how to fight.  But it wasn’t nearly as distracted as the first movie seemed to be.  I did wonder about the whole part with Jehnna’s virginity.  They made a big deal about how she needed to return a virgin or the sacrifice couldn’t happen.  So big a deal was made about her virginity that I was sure there would be a part where Conan breaks her off a piece and that is what causes the ceremony to go wrong, but they never went for that.  There was never even a moment where there was a chance that Conan would hit it.  I don’t know why, as she was perfectly fuckable and seemed to dig on him.  I guess credit could be given for them not being too predictable.  Speaking of predictions, why did they have to tap the wizard Akiro to find out where the princess had disappeared to when she was taken by the wizard Thoth-Amon?  There was literally one place in 100 miles and they were looking right at it, but they still had to ask him and have him do the silly thing with his fingers he always did to say, “Oh!  She’s in that big castle we’re all looking at.  I guess that makes sense.”  I get the feeling that the actors in the movie used the time between the movies to practice with their swords because the action scenes had improved.  They seemed like someone actually choreographed them this time.  The settings in the movie were also very nice.  I liked the inside of Thoth-Amon’s tower a lot, and the room full of mirrors where Conan fights the invulnerable creature with the red hood.  It was really reminiscent to the room of mirrors scene from Enter the Dragon.  The creature he fought there wasn’t particularly well done, being fairly obviously a guy with a mask on.  In contrast, the creature at the end of the movie was pretty good looking and came off as pretty intimidating even though its mouth and neck looked like a loose vagina.

The cast did fine and suited their parts, but their parts were not always that appealing.  Schwarzenegger was still Schwarzenegger and did not put on that much of a performance, but it seemed like his English was better in this movie than in the last.  His part basically just required him to be a big pile of meat, and he’s good at that.  Olivia d’Abo bummed me out, though.  She was pretty hot and her boobs always seemed right on the verge of escaping her clothing, but it never happened.  Fuckin’ tease.  Her hotness came in stark contrast to Grace Jones.  This chick was supposed to be a model at one point, right?  I have no idea what her appeal is supposed to be.  She looks a lot like Tommy Davidson from Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.  I liked Mako as an actor, but by this point I had gotten sick of how ineffectual his character was.  In the first movie, he did next to nothing beyond narration.  In this movie, he had maybe one or two scenes where he used the magic that he was known for wielding.  Also, Tracey Walter’s character replaced Subotai as his partner.  But Subotai was usually pretty stoic in the first movie, whereas Malak was clearly just there for comic relief.  And he was just as annoying as any other comic relief person that can’t produce comedy.  I also would’ve liked a mention to what happened to Subotai from the first movie to this one.  Did he die in the same contract negotiations as Sandahl Bergman?

Conan the Destroyer is only barely distinguishable from Conan the Barbarian.  They’re both pretty basic stories that seem very distracted from their goal, the looks of the movies are fairly good for the time period, and the action has actually been choreographed, to this movie’s credit.  Both are decent enough movies that still hold up fairly well for their age, and I can recommend both for some fairly mindless action.  Conan the Destroyer gets “Enough talk!” out of “A fine magician you are!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.