Although much of its freshness has faded, this still-amusing film reinvented the Western for a new generation.
Newman and Redford reimagine the two famous train robbers as a pair of urbane businessmen who go about their work with the easy nonchalance of seasoned professionals. Threatened by determined Pinkertons and rapidly advancing technology, they reconsider their careers, returning to The Kid's native
New York City for a brief vacation. But, succumbing to the desire to return to the work they know and love, they strike out for South America to start over. At first successful (despite not speaking a word of Spanish), they soon find the Bolivian government less tolerant and more aggressive than
Pinkerton men, and die in a blaze of glory in a gunfight, unaware how seriously outnumbered they are.
BUTCH CASSIDY's winking awareness of its own cinematic nature (from the opening "silent movie" train robbery to the famous closing freeze frame) and witty banter give the story a degree of charm and exuberance, but otherwise it's trapped in its own context, most notably apparent in the
(Oscar-winning) Bacharach score that now feels silly and dated. Ross' stiff performance as the Kid's paramour, Etta Place (a character who later spawned a terrible sequel) is more than offset by the wonderful supporting cast and, especially, the chemistry between the stars. This film revived
Newman's flagging career and officially catapulted Redford to stardom (giving him the industry clout to make such personal projects as DOWNHILL RACER, THE CANDIDATE and JEREMIAH JOHNSON).
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