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.”

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