Friday, August 19, 2011

Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid [1969]

Infamous bank robbers Butch & Sundance rob some banks and escape the law!

That’s one of the more difficult synopsis I’ve had to write – because what do they do in this movie? They love on their women – rob some banks – and escape the law – then the ending comes on. I can appreciate it for what it is but I’m not really sure what exactly it is.

Instead of it being in the guise of Butch and Sundance – Newman & Redford could’ve played just about any cowboys, gangsters or medieval knights. There was nothing particularly special about them in these specific historical figures – other than their chemistry which was great – but nothing that the roles brought. One’s a lover (Butch/Newman) - one’s a fighter (Sundance/Redford) – and those traits could’ve been portrayed in any role they chose to play.

Don’t get me wrong – I liked them together – but I think the story was weak and disjointed. The whole film felt like an interlude to the end gun fight. Butch and Sundance flirted and bickered like an old married couple - but there was no real depth to the characters – other than the bickering which showed they had been together long enough to be comfortable with that layer of male-flirtation. Butch liked to plan and think – Sundance liked to shoot first – but those were clown hammer traits – it would’ve been nice to see more of their characters developed through the story – maybe even a short explanation as to why they were that way.

I’m not wild musical breaks in the story especially if it feels like goofing around filler – and Barry Manilow’s ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ bike riding sequence and the whole “Dabba dabba” song sequence of Butch & Sundance in Bolivia – really just took me out of the story. It probably worked for the carefree time that the film came out – but it doesn’t hold up for me – and maybe it would have if I didn’t feel like they came out of nowhere as the tone up to that point was light – but not THAT light.

At this point I realize I’m sounding like a film curmudgeon – because I’m aware that this film has been honored as being one of the greatest American films of all time – and it is considered a classic. I can’t help but wonder if it’s really the performances and the fondness people have for Newman & Redford that really make this film a “classic” – not really the film itself.

It was at the same point in movie history that Sergio Leone had completed his work with Clint Eastwood in Spain and created 3 of my favorite Westerns – elevating the genre to something it had not been. Hollywood instead, was having fun with two great actors injecting pop culture into the genre and in a way allowing itself to take a step back – which is disappointing.

I didn’t hate the movie – I didn’t even think it was “bad” – I just found more to criticize about it than to embrace about it. You can find any number of people who would love to tell you how “great” it is – but I simply can’t overlook aspects and do that. I wouldn’t watch it again if I was in the mood for a western – I would watch it again if I was more in the mood for some good male bonding banter.

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