Jul 17, 2015

[Movies] Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

A lot of people look back at "old" Hollywood with a certain of idealism as potentially filtered through the heavy lens of nostalgia. But to be fair, there are a lot of great movies to be discovered in movies from "before your time" - although one has to consider that the term "old" eventually applies to more and more movies as time marches on.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has always been one of those movies that people talk about favorably but one that I only remember seeing isolated parts of. And so this is yet another movie that the documentary Casting By reminded me about and thus he need to bump it up in my viewing queue.

Now I remember how female members of my family would gush over the likes of Paul Newman and Robert Redford and I never really paid attention since I wasn't full away of my queer nature at the time. But have having watched the movie in full once more, I have to admit that I am rather shocked at just how gorgeous these guys are. I don't often gush about this sort of thing, but damn.

Synopsis: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a 1969 Western drama directed by George Roy Hill. The screenplay was written by William Goldman loosely based on the lives of outlaws Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Longabaugh.

In Wyoming we meet Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman), leader of the Hole in the Wall Gang and his closest companion "Sundance Kid" (Robert Redford). Upon their return to the gang's hideout, they're surprised to find that Harvey Logan (Ted Cassidy) is now leader of the group since they had been annoyed by Butch's long absence. As is the way of such things, the two eventually fight for the leadership of the group and Butch's superior guile and cunning results in him still winning.

But Butch does agree with some of Harvey's ideas and the gang begins to take on a series of robbery's based on a plan of being more unpredictable and thus harder to anticipate for. They start to target various trains with varying degrees of success, largely related to their relative inexperience in this particular branch of robberies. But of course their efforts attract the attention of the law and it seems the group of lawmen chasing after them appears to include renowed Indian tracker "Lord Baltimore" (David Nieland Copas). And how the pair (and the rest of the gang) continue to elude capture is what really makes up the bulk of the movie.

I rather enjoyed the fairly lighter tone of this movie despite the fact that we're talking about a group of criminals. It wasn't quite outright slapstick, but it was still worlds away from what modern films tag as being "gritty" and such. It's not quite a comedy film either - I guess this all just stresses the on-screen camaraderie of the pair and how well it carries through the screen. They may be outlaws from the law, but they're outlaws you end up wanting to root for.

Newman and Redford are amazing together - and this goes beyond just looking good. They're both competent actors in their own right, but something just clicked in this movie and the two just really hit it off. You totally buy into the concept of them being longtime friends despite a little bickering here and there. But that's the way of really good friends, right?

Given how the movie tries to follow real-life events, you have to admit this was a great story to cover. And while I can't tell fact from fiction, the general shape of the lives of these robbers certainly makes for great entertainment when given the full Hollywood treatment. But there are still those odd moments when things seem to bog down a bit and it's a wonder if this is because real-life events limited the script too much or maybe it was just badly shot / directed / put together.

There's a simplicity to the movie that seems a little elegant, but in other ways it feels like we could have gotten a much more comprehensive story. On the whole it was okay and enjoyable but it didn't go all the way to being a more shallow popcorn movie nor did it become complex enough to be a more serious biography. Thus the movie feels a little in the middle of things - suffering the pains of being neither here nor there.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is still a lot of fun and the leading actors alone make the movie pretty worth your while. It doesn't hold up too well given the test of time, but it's not like it was a super amazing movie to begin with. Thus the movie gets a respectable 3.5 things that can go wrong in a heist out of a possible 5.

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