Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) review

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) review

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
“I’m not sure, but I think they might be trying to kill us.”

Twitter Plot Summary: The story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as they are chased into South America after stealing some monies.

The opening sequence is presented in a glorious sepia tone, perfectly establishing the timeframe and setting for what is to follow. With a brief exchange of words and an even briefer demonstration of sharpshooting ability, the audience is privy to the full extent of both of these characters with almost minimal support from the script. If nothing else it is at least some clever and well crafted direction, supported no doubt by a few decent lines in the script.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford are the titular Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid respectively, stealing money from well-stocked trains in order to fund a surprisingly non-extravagant lifestyle. They abscond with Etta Place (Katherine Ross) where for some time things settle down and they live something akin to a normal life before the law, like an unflappable, unstoppable zombie, finally track them down.

It mostly descends into an extended chase sequence with Butch and Sundance staying one step ahead of the law at every turn. Gradually they make their way down into South America where (spoilers) they would ultimately meet their end. That final shootout is a well structured piece, two men fighting against overwhelming odds. And yet never once do they consider surrendering. This is a characteristic that defines them throughout, individually and as a pair. It also helps define the film, that despite the odds against them there’s no quarter given. This leads to some notable sequences, including a cliff top jump into a fast running river below – despite the fact Sundance can’t swim. In spite of their circumstances, there is still opportunity for the occasional wisecrack and moment of humour – just look at the use of Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”, lyrically appropriate yet slightly whimsical in tone.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Traditionally, cowboys have a horse each.

This whimsy is also present in their repeated raids on the train “Overland Flyer”, causing much concern and worry for the man who is watching over the money, constantly being shot at and nearly blown up. On the less interesting side of the scale are the sequences featuring Katharine Ross as Sundance’s girlfriend. This takes away from the core story and slows things down to an almost unbearable pace. It’s an unnecessary diversion, at least in the way it has been presented here, and could have done with being either removed entirely or rewritten so the story keeps pushing forward rather than grinding to a halt.

I was always of the opinion, before actually seeing the film, that this was a classic of cinema. The reality for me is that it’s an entertaining piece but doesn’t quite hit the mark across the board. The extended and lengthy chase into South America is one fraught with tension, but taking this (and the occasional moment of entertaining banter between the outlaws) aside, I didn’t get a huge amount from it. Perhaps another viewing or two might change my opinion in time, but at the time of writing I’d put this down as a bit of fun and not much else. It just goes to show that just because a film is almost universally applauded it doesn’t mean that everyone will think the same. Food for thought.

Score: 3/5

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