Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Review No. 421
The Bottom Line: A landmark with “unforgettable” written all over it.
Directed by: George Roy Hill
Written by: William Goldman
Butch Cassidy: Paul Newman
The Sundance Kid: Robert Redford
Etta Place: Katharine Ross
Also Starring: Jeff Corey, Strother Martin, Ted Cassidy
Distributed by 20th Century Fox on October 24, 1969. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 112 mins. Rated PG by the MPAA (mature themes; profanity; Western violence).
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was watched on February 17, 2013.
“For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.” –Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman)
I could rattle off countless movies like this right off the top of my head. Die Hard 3. 21 Jump Street. Lethal Weapon. Thelma & Louise. The common bond is a hard focus on crime, with two leads and varying levels of comedy. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is essentially no different, and I’m sure there were “buddy flicks” before it for even further inspiration. But when the film’s venerability is taken into consideration, it’s still something we’d love to see more often.
Butch and Sundance are the archetype of the “buddy flick.” Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis–they all innovated from the iconic powerhouse starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid blares 1969. The technical efforts aren’t so much as standard, with low-quality sound mixing, cinematography, and photo vignettes (save for the one powerfully used to make the ending unforgettable). On one hand, you could look at this as a trashy low-budget film with no sense of style.
On the other hand, it’s nice to venture back to crime films that entertained without being visceral or explosive. In fact, the film can be bittersweet at times. Just within the first half-hour, we hear B.J. Thomas’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”. The scene is emotional like no other crime movie could ever dream to be.
The style is all dissolved as part of the storytelling regime. Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and a man known only as “the Sundance Kid” (Robert Redford) are outlaws. They pass time with secretive criminal affairs, specifically armed robberies. When they find “business” will be more successful for them in Bolivia, they find that a chance to flee from the authorities in the United States. But how long will it be before the Bolivian deputies discover these two are outlaws?
The tale is almost as simple as a knock-knock joke. We’ve heard it so many times before. This is compensated for, however, with characters we have absolutely no familiarity with; characters we enjoy. Butch is an arrogant fellow. He’s a belligerent, pugnacious guy who often times fails to tolerate “the Sundance Kid.” Sundance, on the other hand, is an inattentive, tall, broad fellow. Most of the film’s humor–not that it’s a full-fledged comedy–derives from Sundance’s inclination to stand as a nimrod.
And now, as I describe Butch and Sundance, I begin to wonder why the characters struck me as so likeable. In any other film, these characters would be detestable protagonists. But this isn’t any other film. This, if I may end on a corny note, is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Postscript: I wasn’t sure where to mention it in my review, but this is a Western. It’s often difficult to tell, especially when it impressively departs from the clichés we know of the genre.