Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid might not have invented the modern buddy comedy, but it may as well have. While Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black was still toddling around playing cowboys and Indians, director George Roy Hill, cinematographer Conrad Hall, composer Burt Bacharach, stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and screenwriter William Goldman were meticulously crafting the gold standard for movies about rugged pals quipping and wisecracking their way through one perilous bonding situation after another. Goldman has criticized his Oscar-winning screenplay for being overly clever, which is akin to job applicants who cite their biggest flaws as "I'm too hard-working" or "I'm too much of a perfectionist." But Goldman has a point. Butch Cassidy's dialogue is so unrelentingly sarcastic and irreverent that the film sometimes feels like an especially sharp Mad Magazine parody of itself. In one of the special features included in the two-disc special edition, Hill is reported to have complained following a screening that people were laughing at his tragedy. But tragedies are seldom this glib. Then again, they're seldom this fun or consistently entertaining, either.


In performances that cemented their iconic status, Newman and Redford star as two of the Old West's best-looking and quickest-witted outlaws, genial gentlemen bandits who flee to South America rather than face a "super-posse" representing a railroad baron the duo repeatedly robbed. Newman and Redford try to outrun their past, but their enemies aren't about to let them off easy.

Though Hall's stunning vistas and gorgeous exploration of wide-open spaces hearken back to John Ford, Butch Cassidy otherwise radiates the youthful energy, manic pop playfulness, and antic clowning of the French New Wave. The film's subversive attitude toward genres and genre-mashing echoes the pioneering work of Jean-Luc Godard, and Newman and Redford deliver an extended master class on the uses of old-school, twinkly-eyed movie-star charisma. Though the encroachment of the modern world in the form of super-posses, vengeful tycoons, and the taming of the once-wild West spell doom for the film's loveable anti-heroes, that smartass, incorrigible modernity is precisely what ensures Butch Cassidy's timelessness.

Key features: Two commentary tracks, one by the filmmakers and the other by Goldman, on disc one; documentaries, deleted scenes, production notes, and an alternative credit roll on disc two.