Sepia-toned Paul Newman is a thing of beauty, as is the rest of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I had the pleasure of revisiting one of my favorite films last night with a few friends over a glass or two of scotch. This film is a classic, and for being well over forty years old, it is comparable, if not superior, to the recent remakes of 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit. The combination of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, paired with a Burt Bacharach soundtrack, makes for an unending adventure complete with robberies, shootouts and tense chase scenes. While many westerns are by mere existence cinematic, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid allows for the venue of late sixties rebellion and unconventionality to turn the genre on its head. The film thus becomes not only a western, but a dark comedy as well...although it could be easily missed amidst Sundance's quick draw skills and Cassidy's equally fast wit. To sum it up, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of the coolest films you could ever hope to see.
The film follows the exploits of two members of the infamous Hole In The Wall Gang, the stoic and stern Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) and the ever amiable Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman). After a series of successful robberies, the duo is placed permanently on the run from a bitter bank owner. After picking up their mutual love interest Etta (Katherine Ross) the group flees to Bolivia in hopes of finding shelter. Once there Sundance and Cassidy grow restless, deciding that their own form of happiness comes in robbing banks. Unfortunately, their decision to rob a few more banks places them on watch by the Bolivian leading to a shootout between the duo and a insurmountable number of Bolivian soldiers. The film ends in a freeze frame of the duo drawing their guns against improbable odds. Save for a few more details this is basically the plot of the film. While it may seem short and sweet it is far from this, in fact it is one of the most well written, acted and shot films of not only its era, but the history of cinema as a whole.
The film is rather lacking in heavy social critique. Instead, what Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid represents is a nostalgia for a yesteryear in westerns. It is a buddy movie of sorts, focusing on unquestioned companionship. The do is constantly at each other throats berating one another for stupid actions. Yet when it comes to robbing banks or assuring their survival they work harmoniously. It is reminiscent of the early work of John Wayne or even Bonanza...a notion that in a world as unpredictable as the Wild West...friendship is the only certainty. The big factor making this film different, however, is the inclusion of a female into the group. While brief, it implies the possibility a group unity existing without gender serving as a divide. Simple in regards to filmic narrative, but huge in changing what was possible in the images of the Western.
Do what I did for this film. Buy the Blu-ray and drink some scotch...it is a pair made in cinema heaven.