#50 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

#50 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

“Hey Sundance, who ARE those guys?” #sixwordmovies

The fall will probably kill you. #sixwordmovies

Da ba da da ba da. #sixwordmovies

First things first, and apologies wherever applicable, but I don’t like Burt Bacharach. His songs really, really bother me. And this movie has got Bacharach’s stink all over it, seeing as how he composed and conducted its music. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, the films iconic, signature number, is the kind of song that makes me nauseous. I mean that literally. I get an instant headache, and then my face gets all sweaty, my teeth start to hurt, my stomach tightens up before the olfactory hallucinations kick in (yellow milk, feet, etc.).  So the fact that I enjoyed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a testament to the film’s brilliant performances, comedic wit, and stunning visuals.

The opening scene is absolute dynamite. We’re introduced to the our main characters in a sepia bar room, where the titular pair are conning some unsuspecting sod in a game of black jack. Robert Redford’s adamantine Sundance coupled with Paul Newman’s easy-going, fast-talking Cassidy combine to form a team of no-good crooks that instantly wins you over. They’re the kind of bad guys you love to root for, charming you into pulling for them as they blow up train cars and steal from good, hard-working folks like us.

The first half of the movie is packed with memorable, hilarious moments in which Newman features prominently. He dirty-fights his way back into control of his gang in a very funny fight scene, and then takes the lead role in an explosive train robbery, outwitting a well-meaning twit called Woodcock.

Butch and Sundance keep their crime spree rolling until they are eventually pursued through the wilderness by an elite group of law-keepers, the identities of whom they are never really certain (“Who are those guys?”). They come thundering across the plains on their horses, lead by a Native American expert tracker who keeps the posse relentlessly on their trail, eventually forcing them to change tactics and relocate to Bolivia.

But I had trouble believing this movie at times, though. Anytime the ridiculous, abominable music kicked in I was drawn out of the movie entirely. This is unfortunate because Bacharach’s music was placed over very humorous and beautifully shot montages making them almost unbearable to watch. “Raindrops” is used during a very playful bicycle scene that I can’t imagine ever watching again without calling the mute button into action. Maybe the scene’s music worked for the original audience in 1969, but for a modern viewer it kills the scene dead.

If this scene is tarnished by Bacharach, it’s pure bliss compared to a six minute montage showcasing Cassidy, Sundance, and their lady accomplice Etta Place in their Bolivian escapades accompanied by the most annoying musical number ever. I’ve embedded the scene below. Please watch and listen at your own risk. I actually covered my ears with my hands and hollered “shut up!” at the television. Bacharach’s score made me act stupid and crazy in front of my family. Kind of thing should be illegal.

And Cassidy and Kid are witty. A little bit too witty. Like “would these kind of outlaws really talk like that?”, witty. Diablo Cody witty. When the banter worked, it was genuinely funny. But every so often Newman and Redford would quip in such a way that pulled you out of the turn of the century context of the film. I can’t tell if that’s part of the charm of the film or not. I can’t tell if this is meant to be an ironic spin on the western or an honest, refreshing update of the genre.

I have a terrible feeling that this classic film is ripe for a remake. How can it not? Sexy cowboy types? Check. Educated woman longing for excitement outside of confining gender role? Check. Violence, explosions, adventure? Check. Wisecracks? Check. They can super-charge the sex, super-charge the homoeroticism, super-charge the moody-broodiness. Stuff it full of hot, young Hollywood talent, and you’ve got yourself a real box office smash. Or make it a Ben Stiller – Owen Wilson vehicle…

Oh God. I’ve made myself nauseous.


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