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   BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) 

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CAST
Paul Newman
Robert Redford
Katharine Ross
Strother Martin
Jeff Corey
George Furth
Cloris Leachman
Ted Cassidy
Sam Elliott

DIRECTED BY
George Roy Hill

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack




Time: 110 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Action/Western/Buddy

Won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Song, Original Screenplay and Score. Nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Sound.


It wasn't until BUTCH came out on DVD that I took the time to watch the whole film. Though it takes place in the wild west, it's really more of an action comedy. Newman and Redford, in their first on-screen pairing, begin their film partnership on a rousing high note. They may have never acted together before, but they seem like old friends and it's this connection that makes BUTCH something special. You have to believe that these two men would die to protect each other, that their relationship is the most important thing in their lives. In a strange way they're like a married couple forced to stick together in good times and bad. They could go their own ways, but it never occurs to them. They are better together than they would be apart.

Newman plays the charming, mastermind Butch and Redford, the Sundance Kid, a brooding sharpshooter with the fastest guns in the West. The film follows the basic thread of their actual history. However, it does take some liberties with the truth, compacting time and eliminating the more boring aspects. For our purposes, the story begins in the later days of their notorious careers. They are well known bank robbers with Butch the leader of the Hole in the Wall Gang. Bored with banks they decide to rob the local train, which doesn't make the train's owner very happy. In fact, their antics make him so mad, he hires a special posse to hunt them down and make sure they'll never be able to rob anyone ever again. They've been on the run from the law before, but never like this. To gain some peace of mind and distance, they head to South America with Sundance's girlfriend Etta in tow. They need someone who knows Spanish and though Sundance puts up a tough exterior, he doesn't want to leave her behind.


"Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?"

She proves to be full of surprises and a boon to both their mental health and professional lives. As it turns out, Butch didn't do as much research on their destination as Sundance thought. He also lied about the level of his knowledge of Spanish, which makes their career a bit more difficult, but much more amusing. With constant language coaching from Etta, who kind of becomes their getaway "driver," they are quickly infamous within the region. After robbing every bank in the area, they have no choice but to try and go straight. That doesn't last very long, however, since regardless of their intentions, they are still wanted men. In the end, the law finally catches up with them. I guess even South America wasn't far enough. Of course, if they had stopped robbing banks it probably would have been. Once an outlaw, always an outlaw.

Newman and Redford are what make BUTCH watchable, nothing more, nothing less. The action sequences are somewhat disappointing by today's standards. It's not fair to compare them, but I can't help it. In all actuality, this is more a buddy picture than an action adventure. However, don't expect something like 48 HOURS. The humor is far more subtle, using the mens' weaknesses to draw out the humor – like the fact that Sundance can't swim or that Butch has never actually shot anyone. What completes the picture and gives depth to their characters is the performance by Katharine Ross. She plays a smart, sensible woman who just happened to fall in love with the wrong men. Etta may only be physically intimate with Sundance, but she is deeply loved by both men who also mean the world to her. It is through their scenes with her that the audience is able to see the softer side of these outlaws, which makes you care about what happens to them. If all you saw were their crimes, you wouldn't be so desperate to see them escape.

I found the pace to be somewhat slow in parts, but overall the story and dialogue are quite entertaining. If you want to see why Redford and Newman are so well regarded then take a gander at this piece of classic cinema history. It may not be the most exciting western/action movie on the shelf, but it's definitely one of the better-produced ones. To get the full effect of the expansive locations, be sure to watch it on DVD or letterboxed. You'll miss a lot if you don't.


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