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RIDING THROUGH 'BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID'

year: 1969 cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford Director: George Roy Hill
There are some classics that are good great movies as opposed to true classic classics, and this is a great good movie...

That's only if you can get past the horrible, dementedly unfitting song that jumps the shark of the century before there was such a thing...

For some unfathomable reason, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head plays during a scene where Paul Newman's fast-talking leader of an inept yet successful gang of bank and train robbers, Butch Cassidy, takes his young, bearded, blond-haired partner's girl, Katharine Ross as Etta, on a bicycle (some kinda new contraption that will one day "replace the horse") riding tour of the surrounding town, the morning after just another night with her lover, Sundance...

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In this role, no-name Robert Redford not only became a big movie star (on par with the elder Newman), but was given a chance to prove his worth as being more than a pretty boy. In fact, he takes practically everything as downright serious as it actually is, despite the fact BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID is mostly a comedy led by Newman's constant jabbering, making Sundance not only quieter, but wielding the true gift of a bonafide outlaw: firing his pistol at a target without missing, unless he intends to.

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Following a few humorous train heists involving explosives and underrated character-actor George Furth, the best scenes occur after the gang is "forced" to disband as the pace both picks up and slows down when the duo are hunted by a stubborn posse who remain constantly on their trail; far enough for wacky decisions and/or plans to be made by Cassidy and close enough for a sort of intentionally lethargic, nightmarish suspense – like when something's after you and just won't stop... providing a slow-burn, ominous feeling of doom.

Strother Martin
Thus the second half, after one of the most famous leaps in cinema history, gives the boys (plus Etta) a new life in Bolivia, Cassidy's mysterious dream destination where director George Roy Hill provides some of his best shots, and later on, scenes are stolen by the always-watchable Strother Martin... leading to that guns-blazing conclusion that, despite a sturdy two-hour run-time, comes quicker than you would think: Proving that despite not being that legitimately powerful a Western genre vehicle, and the awful music including some kind of "white man scat" during a montage that attempts to make our handsome leads seem unbreakable in their occupation, the movie flows well enough, working for both male and female audiences and, while not quite living up to its prodigious reputation, it's a clever, crafty, and often intense and edgy ride, despite itself.

RATING: ***1/2
TRIVIA/RECOMMENDATIONS: In 1973, Director George Roy Hill once again directed Redford & Newman in THE STING, which garnered an Oscar win for Best Picture, although it's less of a team-up and more of a Redford vehicle with Newman filling in, sporadically. And yet, in this reviewer's opinion, Hill's best movie was in 1977, and one of Newman's most genuine performances: their classic collaboration SLAP SHOT that, while a very funny film, has some serious moments, and an underlined agenda about the sport of hockey (and all sports in general): also featuring Strother Martin but in a bigger, more important role. Hill retired after the surprisingly apt comedy FUNNY FARM starring Chevy Chase as a wannabe novelist, and one of his best directorial ventures also includes a comic actor, proving he's a lot more... and it wasn't mentioned in any of the coverage upon the news reports when Robin Williams took his life... So rent THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, you won't be disappointed.
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