“I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” – Butch Cassidy
For a movie that’s just hit its golden years, “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid” is still surprisingly modern. There’s a lot of great revisionist westerns I love, from Sergio Leone’s Clint Eastwood showcases to the gory nihilism of “The Wild Bunch,” but thanks to the late William Goldman’s Oscar-winning script, “Butch” is the only one that’s eminently quotable.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid” is the blueprint for the flawed quippy heroic icon that exploded through the ‘80s in everything from “Lethal Weapon” to Han Solo to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark. It’s based on the true story of two charming rogue robbers as they fumbled their way through history, but it’s no dry period piece.
“This is no time for bravery.” – Butch
The movie begins and ends with sepia tones, homaging an imagined western past that America has fetishised for decades. But in between “Butch Cassidy” is a determinedly modern movie, with Joss Whedon-worthy jokes being cracked left and right by Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Rather than the stoic masculine glares of an Eastwood or John Wayne, you’ve got Paul Newman’s motormouth Butch, whose first act of violence in the film isn’t a grim showdown – it’s kicking someone in the nuts. Meanwhile, Robert Redford’s Sundance Kid is the more traditional hero of the two, but he still shows cracks in his western hero facade. They don’t act like western heroes were ‘expected’ to: When trouble comes, they run.
“Listen, I don’t mean to be a sore loser, but when it’s done, if I’m dead, kill him.” – Butch
Sundance Kid: “Love to.”
For fans of great movie writing, Goldman’s book “Adventures In The Screen Trade” is an absolute must-read. Goldman (who also had “The Princess Bride” and “Marathon Man” to his credit among many others) delivers a master-class in script writing, including reprinting his entire “Butch Cassidy” script and then unsparingly analysing its failures and successes. It’s pretty fascinating to read his process and even his admission that ‘it’s not about what I meant it to be about.’
“Butch Cassidy” is one of those pivotal movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s that forever cracked the old of the traditional heroic figure. The reason it still seems so relaxed today is that we’ve been surrounded by Butch and his offspring for years. Long may they ride.
Butch: “You know, when I was a kid, I always thought I’d grow up to be a hero.”
Sundance Kid: “Well, it’s too late now.”
Butch Cassidy: “What’d you say that for? You didn’t have to say something like that.”