#208 Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

(1969, George Roy Hill)

“You just keep thinking, Butch. That’s what you’re good at”

Ah, Westerns. We’ve touched on how little I like this genre. But hey, maybe Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid won’t be too bad. It’s not a John Wayne vehicle in which he drawls a lot. And it is a notable classic of the genre that kicked off a major cinema partnership between Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It’s a character piece. I generally like good character pieces. Surely I’ll like this? Let’s see.

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid is the apparently true story about two guys – Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) – who are famous bandits in the Old West. However, the times they are a-changin’ and the law is beginning to catch up with them. The movie deals with their attempts to evade the law and continue their thieving ways for as long as possible, even if it means fleeing to another country.

I would love to be able to say that Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid changed my opinion of Westerns and won me over and is a standout example of the genre and all of that wonderful stuff. I’d like to say that, but sadly it did little to win me over. I will admit that it’s probably among the best of its genre, but that’s because it was only mildly less boring than its peers. That’s the highest praise I can give this.

I think my main issue with the movie is that it’s so poorly-paced. We learn about our characters in a scene without any sound (and I do mean no sound whatsoever), so instead of being drawn into the action, I was spending the first ten minutes of the movie fiddling with the volume and wondering if my DVD player was broken. Which is not a good start, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The movie then skips to the duo at a party, then there’s a song by Bacharach & David, then the duo pulling a job, then being chased for ages (without any real sense of urgency), then there’s a musical montage of the duo travelling, then finally they’re in Bolivia where…stuff kinda happens but it happens either really slowly or suddenly without explanation.

The movie is horrendously confused. We obviously have a film that was conceived when the producers discovered a really interesting couple of bandits from the Old West and decided to make a movie about them. However, in the process, they neglected to decide which part of their lives to focus on, so instead tried to squeeze everything into a tight space. Somewhere along the way, the biggest songwriters on the planet at the time (besides Lennon/McCartney) got involved and then they had to add their latest single for some reason.

In fact, let’s discuss the musical interludes. First off, we have the world’s introduction to Bacharach and David’s “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”. A classic song it may be, but here it feels forced (despite being written for the movie). It scores a romantic bike ride between Butch and his ladyfriend Etta (Katharine Ross), which would be fine if we hadn’t seen Etta sleeping with The Kid the night before. I have literally no idea what this woman’s relationship to the pair was. On the whole, she seemed to be The Kid’s girlfriend, but this sequence raised massive questions and didn’t come across as romantic and lovely as it obviously wanted to be because, well, whose girlfriend is she really?!

And then we have the journey to Bolivia, which was shown via ragtime music and sepia-tinted pictures for what seemed like forever. I understand that they didn’t want to show us the entire journey, but they didn’t really skip the journey so much as show us a brief tourist’s guide to every stop along the way. This did not speed up the process at all.

Not everything was bad. It’s easy to see where Newman and Redford gained a cinema partnership, because they had great on-screen chemistry. They were believable as close friends and allies, and there were some funny moments between them at times. I also laughed at the botched train robbery, which was helped by said chemistry.

I also liked the famous ending, where the screen fades to sepia and leaves the entire movie on an unresolved cliffhanger. I thought it was a great way to mess with audience expectations.

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid is a somewhat overrated movie that’s only mildly better than other Westerns. Probably a classic to fans of the genre, but sadly not for me.

Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford & Katharine Ross
Written by William Goldman
Produced by John Foreman
Music by Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Cinematography by Conrad L. Hall
Edited by John C. Howard & Richard C. Meyer

Favourite Scene: The botched train robbery, where The Kid manages to destroy an entire train car by using too many explosives.
Scene That Bugged Me: That goddamn bike ride!

Watch it if: You like Westerns, the Newman/Redford partnership or Bacharach & David songs
Avoid it if: You don’t like unresolved cliffhangers

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Posted on August 13, 2013, in 1960s, Action, Crime, Western and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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