Review: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Note: This is #48 in my 52 Classic Movies in 52 Weeks challenge for 2009.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is kind of weird, as if it can’t figure out what kind of movie it wants to be. Cassidy (Paul Newman) and Kid (Robert Redford) are the leaders of The Hole in the Wall Gang, which is your typical wild west kind of affair. They spend their time in brothels, saloons, and the scenes of crimes like train robberies. When they hit a train one too many times, though, the railroad owner hires a group of super lawmen who are like a gang of Terminators on horseback in that they don’t ever stop coming after the duo and they unerringly follow their trail. So Cassidy and Kid flee to Bolivia with a romantic interest Etta Place (Katherine Ross) where they experiment with both crime and walking the straight and narrow path.

What’s weird about this film is that it almost seems like the script and direction were determined by committee. There are scenes that could be out of any Western movie, then you get this weird non-sequiter with Cassidy in a bowler hat tooling around on a bicycle with his girlfriend while someone croons “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” in the background. Then you’ll get Cassidy and Kid fleeing across the landscape from the Terminator Posse followed by a sepia toned photo montage showing their fancy pants lark in Cony Island. The tone of the movie also slingshots around, a bit, with the rakish and wise-cracking duo making all kinds of jokes or humorously fumbling over their impromptu Spanish during a Bolivian bank robbery just before a scene with murder and violent gunplay. And then there’s the ending, which is bleak and violent beyond anything else in the movie. Things just seems all over the place, and while that could be interesting in a genre bending or deconstruction kind of way (are we at post modern film making already?) the whole experience just didn’t seem to gel to me.

The film is probably worth watching for the performances of Newman and Redford alone, and there are a few really great scenes –I’m thinking in particular of the one where Cassidy bests a rival gang leader and the one where they exchange words with an amusingly loyal accountant guarding the booty from a train robbery. So it’s not bad, but it just doesn’t strike me as a masterpiece the way some other movies on my list have.

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