Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid


Year 1969

Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy
Robert Redford   as   The Sundance Kid  
Strother Martin   as Percy Garris
Ted Cassidy as Harvey Logan  
 
Director - George Roy Hill
Screenwriter - William Goldman

For years, I've been delaying watching Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, or Blah Cassidy and Some Dunce Kid as I think of it. Years, I tell ya. Oh, I've heard of it and seen snippets of it and too often seen the final shot (that's it up there in the picture), but nothing I've read or seen or heard has prompted me to invest the time to actually watch it. Well, I finally watched it.

Ardent followers will tell you of the great exchanges between the characters, and the jumping off of the cliff, and the last scene where they go to certain doom (that's it up there in the picture), but what they won't tell you is that the exchanges have nothing on typical banter and two scenes do not a movie make.

Oh, there are parts of the movie that strive to achieve some sort of art, but the parts are greater than their sum. For every cool camera effect, there're twenty minutes of boring nothing. (To ironically steal from Milton Berle "What is this? A movie or an oil painting?" (It's irony because Berle was noted for stealing jokes.)) A stand alone scene is a short, not a movie. A series of shorts is not a movie, either. When the shorts are dull and do not move the plot along, they should be discarded. The items that should be discarded make up about 75% of the movie.

This movie came out during the Golden Age of Revisionist Westerns (1960 - 1975). The Wild Bunch, which to me defines a revisionist western, came out the same year. Neither would have been as accepted by critics if The Magnificent Seven hadn't preceded them all by about ten years.

What's good about the movie? Well, if you're female, it's got Robert Redford and Paul Newman in it. It's a western, sort of. Supposedly, at least according to the introduction to the movie, "Most of what follows is true." A little research will tell you that most of what follows is blatantly false.

What else is "good"? Supposedly it's a buddy movie. I didn't get the feeling that these two men had ever formed anything more than the most superficial of relationships. Oh, there's some homosexual attraction between them, so they probably love each other in a testosterone fueled, unrequited, manly way. But, being so close and all, you'd think that these "buddies" would know each other's real names and places of birth. I'd think that if they had this long standing friendship, these intimate details would've come out prior to the end of the movie, since they're all being so warm and fuzzy with each other previously. In other words, the friendship didn't convince.

More good? Some of the camera scenes are nicely done. There's one scene where Paul Newman rides a bicycle and the camera follows him through slats in a fence. It's like watching a flicker, which was what the movies of Butch and Sundance's time were referred to. Even though it's a nice camera effect, there's no reason why that scene was there in the first place except to sell the song, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" This song, as anyone knows, is a western song like "Deep in the Heart of Texas". I'm being facetious! To be a bit kind, the song won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song that year even though it has no place in the movie. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" is sappy, insipid, and is about as western as a Pharoah.

The movie is also dated. Not just the music but the method of story telling, a series of vignettes, has no real theme to grab you. The characters aren't convincing in their roles. Newman was more convincing as a Mexican in The Outrage which was a western remake of Rashomon. Redford as a murderous bank robber? Redford as a tree hugging spreader of rose petals, alright. Redford as a killer? Nope.

Yet this movie is loved to the point that Redford named his film festival after it. Must be a really strong female contingent behind all of this. I can't imagine any guy praising this movie. It's silly, foppish, meandering, and yawn inducing.

At first, I thought that because the facts were true, the dullness came from trying to be historically accurate. So, I cut the movie some slack. I've come to find out that very few of the events actually took place. The names are usually correct, but not the events. Oh, Butch and Sundance were bank and train robbers and they visited New York, but everything else is embellished to the point of being fictional.

Simple things, like running a horse for twenty-four hours without the horse dropping dead from exhaustion, are distracting. That the characters are fleeing for days yet they are always perfectly groomed is another a dig at the movie. Why not introduce jet-packs or have them roller skate through mountainous terrain? It'd be as historically accurate as anything else in the movie.

The main characters don't need to bathe or shave, not even after days of being pursued. They have an inhuman ability to look good at all times. It must be in their contracts. Their horse during the chase must have the same contract. It carries two men at a gallop for at least a day without generating any sweat or froth. That horse should have died! And the whole chase, which is the crux of the movie? Fake!

I began to lose interest in the movie when Newman rode his bicycle for the benefit of plugging the song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head". I scratched my head when a train following another train disgorged a posse of supermen. Really? They were on a train following the one that was going to be robbed? And horses and passengers were in the same car? Not going to happen. But what drove the killing knife into my brain was the way that Butch and Sundance kept ahead of this posse for days and days. We're treated tp days and days of movie time with nothing happening, except one of the characters asking, "Who are those guys?"

Answer: Nobody. In the movie it's a crop of top-notch trackers and lawmen working for the railroad with the express purpose of bringing in Butch and Sundance. A big deal is made of this. In real life, the railroad hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency once in a while to help bring in robbers and not just Butch and Sundance. In the movie they couldn't get away from the Indian tracker Lord Baltimore. In real life, there was never anyone named Lord Baltimore. Their movie nemesis Joe Lefors? In real life he was inept and rarely used by the Pinkertons.

What will leave you with ultimate distaste is the ending. You know, that final scene where Butch and Sundance fight it out in the street in a two against one-hundred Viking storyline (that's it up there in the picture)? It never happened. A couple of guys were shot to death in Bolivia while holed up in a cabin, by four soldiers and the local police, but they were NOT Butch and Sundance. DNA test have shown this.

When the movie states that the story is mostly true, and you give leeway to the boring scenes because you think you need to relinquish entertainment for fact to maintain the truth, and then you find out that the movie is not true at all...well, you feel betrayed. Even simple things like the name of Butch Cassidy's gang aren't correct. In the movie they are called The Hole in the Wall Gang. Historically, they were known as The Wild Bunch.

So, if the purpose of the movie was to weave a fable and parable, they shouldn't have used real characters and then deviated so far from the truth. Since I can't figure out the moral of the story, I'm not sure that it was intended to be a parable.

There's some blasphemy but no profanity or nudity. There are a couple of worthy scenes. There's no feeling of substance about any place or person in the movie. It has at least average chick flick potential because of the gay aspects of Newman's and Redford's relationship. In fact, women may think that they understand men better as a result of this movie. They couldn't be more wrong. It's not a bad movie, it's just not as good as you might expect and will leave you wanting something worthwhile, like The Wild Bunch, or Once Upon a Time in the West, or Slap Shot, which is another George Roy Hill movie.


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