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Of all the famous duos throughout history (Bonnie and Clyde, Laurel and Hardy, Siskel and Ebert), one of the coolest has always been Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I'm automatically partial to anyone with a first-class nickname and it comes with merit too. The movie just wouldn't be the same if they had to call it "Robert Parker and Harry Longabaugh". While it's not hard to find cooler outlaws in real life, this classic star powered team brings a fresh likability to their characters.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford get top billing in the 1969 George Roy Hill western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Hill would later work with the two on The Sting and each of them separately on several other occasions. But it's here that the pair get to act in roles from author / screenwriter William Goldman of 'The Princess Bride', 'Chaplin', and 'The Stepford Wives' among others. He earned the movie one of it's four Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay though it's the charm of the two stars that holds the film together.
Sundance (Redford) is known throughout the west as one of the fastest and most feared gunmen around. His introduction in the opening scene may still be my favorite in the whole movie. His partner Butch (Newman) is the one with the fast mouth that's either getting himself in trouble or getting Sundance out of it. They both seem to be at crossroads in their advanced train robbing days but neither really makes the effort to make any change either way. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of, Union Pacific head, E. H. Harriman's relentless posse.
Butch and Sundance, even with their experience, can't seem to shake off the trailing lawmen that results in a quickly shrinking distance between the two and nearly 30 minutes of screen time. It makes for an exciting chase but the only thing we really learn is that the group may be lead by the tough Joe Lefors and a famous Indian tracker named Lord Baltimore. They attempt to hide out in their favorite brothel and even negotiate amnesty with a sheriff acquaintance but the only way they can escape is if they flee to Bolivia. They soon realize that the vengeful Harriman and his gang aren't bound by borders.
The first half of the movie is easily the best with things going a little dull on the way to and at Bolivia. It picks back up at the very end but I'll get to that in a minute. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid would be a perfectly fine western, despite the possibly intentional clichés, if it weren't for one annoying decision that still confuses me. Why, even in '69, would anyone put Burt Bacharach in charge of the soundtrack and include three very awkward scenes / montages with this accompaniment? They all stand out and make you wonder if this is a western with a little humor here and there or if they're actually going for a comedy. It takes you out of the movie about as much as a commercial break but then picks up right where it left off. The beautiful scenery back in America is sorely missed once they arrive in Bolivia where things drag until the final shootout. It's interestingly shot and the final freeze frame captures the essence of these two characters leaving you well enough pleased.
Even with a few odd filmmaking choices, this is a pretty fun movie. Newman and Redford make the difference with their good onscreen chemistry and individual personalities. It's not the best western of the period but everyone should at least Netflix it once and give it a fair shot. That's why I give Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:
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