Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Released:  1969

Cast:  Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Jeff Corey, Henry Jones

Oscar Wins:  Best Original Screenplay (William Goldman), Best Cinematography (Conrad L. Hall), Best Music, Original Song (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” — Burt Bacharach, Hal David), Best Music, Original Score (Burt Bacharach)

Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture, Best Director (George Roy Hill), Best Sound (Bill Edmondson, David Dockendorf)

SUMMARY:  Late in the 19th century, Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and his partner the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) have developed a reputation for robbing trains and banks in the Midwest.  However, their long scouting trips take them away from the rest of their gang, who decide to elect a new leader.  When Butch and Sundance return to the gang, Butch and the new leader engage in a knife fight; after Butch wins, he is again the leader of the group.  However, Butch believes that the man had a good idea:  rob the Overland Flyer train on both its initial and return journeys (after being robbed on the first trip, the train would not expect to be robbed on the return, and would therefore be carrying more money).  The first robbery goes off without a hitch, and Butch and Sundance celebrate by visiting Sundance’s girlfriend Etta Place (Katharine Ross).  The second robbery does not go so smoothly.  The safe has been newly fortified, and Butch uses too much dynamite to open it, causing the entire train car to explode and scatter money everywhere.  As the gang tries to collect it, another train approaches and releases six men on horseback, who begin to pursue Butch and Sundance.  The pair try multiple tactics to evade the posse, but are unable to shake them.  They are able to learn that the posse includes famous Indian tracker Lord Baltimore, as well as the notoriously determined Sheriff Joe Lefors.  Butch and Sundance ultimately jump from a cliff into a river to get away, and temporarily fool the posse.  They return to Etta’s house and learn from her that railroad magnate E.H. Harriman has hired the posse to pursue Butch and Sundance until the pair are killed.

Butch decides that all three of them — himself, Sundance and Etta — should go to Bolivia, where numerous mines have recently opened (meaning that there are rich payrolls all over).  They re disappointed when they arrive:  Bolivia is not nearly as developed as the U.S., and Butch and Sundance realize that they don’t know enough Spanish to communicate.  Etta, a schoolteacher by profession, tries to teach them the necessary phrases but has little success.  However, the three manage to pull off a string of successful robberies, and Butch and Sundance earn themselves the nickname “Los Bandidos Yanquis”.  Everything seems to be going well until they spot Lefors and realize that Harriman’s posse has followed them to Bolivia.  Butch knows that the posse cannot touch them unless they commit another robbery, so he comes up with a revolutionary idea:  he and Sundance will go straight.  Ironically, they find work as payroll guards, but on their first trip they are attacked by native bandits, who kill their boss.  Butch and Sundance kill the bandits and recover the money, but come to the conclusion that they are not made for honest life.  Etta refuses to watch the two get killed in robbery attempts, and heads back to the U.S.  Butch and Sundance do return to robbery, but are recognized by a local when they stop for a meal.  The local alerts the police, who begin shooting at the outlaws.  Butch and Sundance make it to cover in an old building, but both have been gravely wounded.  Butch tries to get more ammunition from their mule as Sundance provides cover; when he returns, he suggests that they go to Australia next.  Together, they charge out of the building, guns firing, into an ambush by the Bolivians.

MY TAKE:  This movie has a huge reputation, but I actually prefer a different Newman-Redford movie (The Sting).  This one is kinda slow at times, and when it’s supposed to be about train/bank robbers, you expect a lot of excitement.  Very little of the actual robberies are shown, with most of the scenes taking place during the planning stages or the escape stage.  This does allow for a lot of hilarious banter between Butch and Sundance, but not tons of action.  Personally, I was amazed that Harriman’s men followed the two all the way to Bolivia, but I was even more surprised that Butch and Sundance kept robbing banks down there.  It would seem to me that if you actually managed to get out of the U.S. and away for the men who were relentlessly trying to kill you, you would stay as quiet as possible, sort of like ex-Nazis that fled to Argentina.  Obviously they don’t have a lot of experience with honest work, but surely they could find something to occupy them.  The job as payroll guards was brilliant, as they knew exactly what to be on the lookout for, but they should also know better than anyone that it’s a dangerous (and usually short-lived) job.  It’s a fairly funny movie, but I would have liked more action.  Still, it can’t be all bad when you get to watch a young Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

RATING:  Okay; not great.



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