Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
George Roy Hill
- Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy
- Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid
- Katharine Ross as Etta Place
Exciting, engaging and entertaining are the three words that spring to mind when I think of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Featuring two affable main characters and loosely based on true events, it is damn near impossible to not be swept up in the funny and irreverent western.
It is the time of the Wild West and outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid belong to the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang. The gang go about robbing banks, thanks to the charisma of Butch and the precise aim with a gun from Sundance when needed. Everything is going pretty amazing for them thanks to the combined skill set of both men in their line of work. Yet the law soon catches up with both of them after a spectacularly explosive hold up and a posse is dispatched to find them, causing our charismatic twosome to flee. Wherever the duo seem to run too, whether it be through the desert, canyons or over rivers, the seemingly tireless posse continues to be hot on their trail. Finally, the outlaws, along with Sundance’s schoolteacher lover Etta Place, flee to Bolivia in search of respite from being chased and of course new opportunities of making money. They go about conducting more successful robberies, but the idyll is shattered when it appears that justice is not going to let go of either of them.
It is obvious almost from the start of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid that director George Roy Hill is having the time of his life displaying a confidence and intrinsic cheekiness in his mounting of this engrossing film. He utilizes experimental touches that are very jaunty and set the film’s tone as firmly tongue in cheek, in stark contrast to a lot of westerns that are very bloody and brutal. Take the opening for example; bathed in sepia, we are introduced to our main characters by way of a silent movie style montage that is bracingly amusing and informs you of all you need to know about the titular outlaws. A crackerjack script(that garnered an Oscar win) has a laugh a minute, particularly in the exchanges between Butch and Sundance that crackle with humour as they get themselves into precarious situations constantly. There are just so many memorable moments that abound in this film that it’s difficult to choose only a few to talk about, but I’ll give it a go. The aforementioned opening is sublime as well as a newspaper and photograph clipping detail of Butch, Sundance and Etta’s interlude throughout various cities. The jump off a gorge, despite the fact Sundance can’t swim is a stand out moment and of course Butch riding without a care in the world on a bicycle with Etta to the strains of ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’. And who can forget that final freeze frame that immortalizes both characters? Credit must be given highly for introducing us to two of the most charismatic characters to grace the screen. Criminals they may be, but boy are they an affable and amusing duo together on their journey of outrunning the encroaching law. While it has a lot of humour in it, an impending tragedy percolates away in there, bringing with it notes of bittersweetness as death lurks for the outlaws at almost every stop. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is as much a buddy movie as it is a western, as while it adheres to the conventions of a western, the focus is squarely on the main characters more than many westerns and it has a lot more laughs in it, followed by approaching sadness. Beautiful scenery is bountiful and you can’t help but marvel at the various shots of mountains, rivers and hills that are to be found here. There are minor things that time hasn’t been kind to, but I could count these on one hand which shows how it still makes a damn fine impact and experience for any viewer. A nice and skittish score is the ideal representation of how spirited this film is, while not forgetting the eventual feeling of tragedy that will befall our amusing duo.
A simply sublime cast is on hand to give this western a golden boost, in particular the perfect pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the somewhat opposite desperadoes whose bond is nonetheless strong. Butch is the talkative one with the big ideas, while Sundance is the laconic and more grave individual. Their differences and similarities fit together perfectly, and have us rooting for this dynamic duo. Paul Newman is bright-eyed and full of roguish adventure as Butch, who always has a scheme or plan even in the most dire circumstances. Robert Redford makes Sundance a quiet and collected man with a deadly shot, who is the more serious-minded and cool half of the team. It is impossible to talk about this film without mentioning how Paul Newman and Robert Redford share an unbeatable chemistry, that makes the quips of both characters register with conviction and easy humour. The film would simply have not been the same without both of these actors complimenting the other in an uncannily excellent and amiable fashion. Katharine Ross plays the other important role of Etta, the schoolteacher in love with Sundance along for the ride. Ross is pleasing and softly spoken, yet very assertive when it is called for. Her role in the story is the less of the three as Butch and Sundance take up the majority, but Ross ensures that she holds her own in the part.
An enjoyable experience, the evergreen delights of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid remain for all to view in a film coloured with laughs and eventual tragedy.