Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Director: George Roy Hill
Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katherine Ross
Released: Oct 24th, 1969 

The Western can be a very alienating genre. For one thing, it markets itself as being very gender specific. A lot of guys shooting other guys on horses, it is clearly aimed at a sex infused with testosterone, who like drinking beer, eating steaks and scratching crotches.
It isn’t regarded as being symbiotic with originality either, seeing as it is generally confined to a specific time period and location… Cowboys Vs. Aliens was an interesting variant on this trend, but even still! I myself held very little interest in the Western genre before seeing this film, and so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of the best films I have ever seen.

The plot:
Focusing on the time Butch Cassidy (Newman) spent with his partner, the Sundance Kid (Redford), the film depicts how the two operate in the west, robbing trains, banks and the heart of young Miss Etta Place (Ross). However, when they have a close brush with the law, they find themselves being driven to Bolivia, where they are forced to adjust to a new way of life.

What is so very surprising about this film is the simply astounding chemistry that is established between Butch and Sundance, in the very first few scenes. Whereas some films require almost half a film to construct a believable relationship between people, this film does so faster than you have time to blink. The two actors are phenomenal in their roles, completely owning the characters effortlessly. You can all to easily picture them casually arguing over who ate the last Oreo biscuit and occasionally finishing each others sentences.

Newman himself is irresistibly charming, likable for every single second that he is onscreen. He has a casual and confident air about him that is difficult, if not impossible, to feign. So infectious is his cheerful nature that even the people he is robbing regard him as an old friend rather than an outlaw. If he mugged you in the street, you’d probably find yourself shaking your head and thinking what a scamp he is.

Redford, on the other hand, is a more awkward character. He boasts the greatest gun slinging skills in the West, but is socially inept around people. His shy yet easy-to-anger nature is strangely endearing and relatable. His pride is a contributing factor to this, an element that is established from the moment he is appears onscreen, playing cards with a cynical opponent.

This duo is united beautifully by a love of freedom, which is made clear by their countless brushes with the law and also by their mutual love of the beautiful Etta Place, more than capably portrayed by Katherine Ross. She manages to inject a good deal drama into the film, delivering some of the most moving dialogue. However, she displays an equal amount of fun and humour, as well as good old 1960s sex appeal.

While some very serious themes are addressed throughout the film (the strength of friendship, adjustable moralities, free love, and Sundance’s swimming ability), the tone remains light-hearted from beginning to end. At one point, Butch and Etta enjoy a bicycle ride to the music of Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head. It should feel out-of-place, but miraculously, it fits, and far better than it did in Spiderman 3.

The central hook of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is it’s perfect balance of adventure and timeless wit. The banter between the two outlaws is endless and endlessly entertaining, with one always watching the others back. Surprisingly, the action has barely dated at all and, because we care so much for the main characters, it is a well and truly engaging adventure throughout.

Overall:
A masterpiece. Effortlessly exploiting all the best aspects of the Western genre and adding some beneficial elements of its own. Funny, charming and exciting, it is everything a film should be.

Rating: 10/10

Once they divide up, we take them, no trouble, right?” – Butch Cassidy
Maybe.” – Sundance Kid
Boy, for a gunman, you’re one hell of a pessimist.” – Butch Cassidy

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • Dustin Hoffman was considered for the role of Butch Cassidy
  • The Bolivia scenes were shot in Mexico where almost the entire cast and crew came down with Montezuma’s Revenge (severe diarrhea caused by polluted drinking water). Only the three main stars were spared because they drank only sodas and alcohol for the shoot.
  • This film is fully endorsed by Lula Parker Betenson (the real Butch Cassidys’ sister).
  • This entry is from IMDB, and I think that makes it even more amusing:
    In order to make the bull (in one scene) charge, the filmmakers sprayed a substance on his testicles. Oddly, he didn’t seem to mind and endured it through several takes.

This film is kind of like:

  • The innocent joy of playing cowboys and indians as a child

or

  • A story that is so fantastical that you assume it to be bullshit if it were told in a pub
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I saw Blackthorn as well, didn’t like it as much as this, but it was still pretty good. I’ll have a look into that one, thanks very much.

  2. Butch and Sundance are awesome, just plain awesome. I remember watching this movie with my grandpa when I was a kid. I also saw Blackthorn about Butch surviving Bolivia… that was a pretty cool movie. I just got done reading a book that is along the same lines as Blackthorn (all about Butch) and it’s a pretty sweet book. It’s called “Legends Lost” by Charlie Mac http://www.charliemacbooks.com, definitely worth checking out.


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