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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Movie Review: BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID

BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
1969
Not Rated


"You just keep thinkin', Butch. That's what you're good at."
-- Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a 1969 Academy Award-winning western directed by George Roy Hill that tells a loosely-based-on-fact tale of the two titular criminals. After making a successful career for themselves, Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) finally find themselves in a bit of a pickle. After attempting to rob the same train on two consecutive trips, the railroad owner decides to organize a special team to stop the bandits. This crew of the best lawmen and trackers in the West chases Butch and the Kid all over the terrain, eventually forcing them to consider going abroad to escape. And so, with the Kid's woman Etta (Katharine Ross) in tow, the trio sets their sights on Bolivia, where they once again start their bank-robbing ways. As they gain notoriety in the Spanish-speaking country as well, it's only a matter of time until they start to worry that the aforementioned crew of lawmen and trackers finds them there as well.

Despite its massive success and popularity, I had actually never seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid until I sat down to watch it today (I'll pause for a moment while you question my movie-watching prowess). Having always been partial towards Newman and Redford, it's all the more surprising that I hadn't taken this one in just yet, but having finally sat down to watch it, I can honestly say I'm glad for the experience. That being said, however, I did not think it was the greatest movie I had ever seen.

The storyline offers an interesting tale of two aging criminals who just might be at the end of their career, and yet they're doing their best to cling onto what little they still have left. If that means running off to another country in order to find their fortune once again, then that's exactly what they feel is necessary. The story is interwoven with some fantastic dialogue, especially when it comes to the conversations between Butch and the Kid. The screenplay itself is bitingly hilarious, and it offers quite a few laughs for those of you paying close enough attention. That being said, I did think that the story dragged on a little bit here and there, and the film feels every bit of its 110-minute run-time. That's not really the best thing for a film that's simply offering pure entertainment.

We are getting a couple of stellar performances from our two leads, and the chemistry between Newman and Redford is probably the selling point of the film. The performances seem so natural, and their relationship in the film seems so genuine, that it's easy to fall into the characters and believe them from the start. To be fair, when you have two big-time actors like Newman and Redford, you really shouldn't expect anything less, but they make this film everything that it is. Ross does well in a limited supporting role, but her character isn't offered a lot with which to work. And because there are no other truly central characters, a lot of the film rests on the shoulders of Newman and Redford, who definitely step up to the plate and deliver.

One of the biggest issues I had with the film was with its soundtrack, which has received numerous accolades. Both the score by Burt Bacharach and the original song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" earned Academy Awards for the film, but I personally couldn't see how any of the film's music helped craft or enhance the film experience as a whole. It's almost as though this film is a western that doesn't quite know it's a western, if that makes sense. It seemed to throw a little too much of the contemporary atmosphere into its constructs, and I personally thought that detracted from the film as a whole. Fortunately, the film's screenplay does help salvage the film, offering a decent story as well as a fantastic final shootout sequence.

Although I didn't think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was one of the best movies I have ever seen, I do see why it has found such an honored place in the annals of American cinema. Accompanied by fantastic cinematography and a true sense of entertainment, this film does offer quite the enjoyable experience. Yes, it has its flaws, but if you can focus on the performances of our two leads, I'm sure you'll find plenty to like about this western.



Movie Review Summary
Grade: A-

1.5 Thumbs Up

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