As played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have to be the most charismatic killers Hollywood “counter culture” cinema produced. Bonnie & Clyde were still rough and bloody, and Peter Fonda in Easy Rider rubbed up against American authority like sandpaper in his quest for freedom. But Cassidy & Sundance, with their movie star looks, fantastic chemistry, easy banter with the folks they rob, and nonviolent methods, seem like the kind of criminals you can really idolize. So why is there a Pinkerton posse unfairly targeting them?
During one of Cassidy and Sundance’s more hilarious heist hijinks, an ominous cloud appears. It is their doom approaching, by way of the Union Pacific:
The entire sequence is a mastery of editing and tone. Smash cut closeups of the train show the violent power of the machine as it sweats oil and expels steam. Then, as the whistle blows, men on horseback burst forth from the bowels of the train car. These flashes of man and horse are the closest we’ll ever get to the posse, starting from this point they will be seen only as Butch and Sundance see them: threatening, black shapes on the horizon. Affable Butch and handsome Sundance, men who put a charming face on crime, from this point forward will be pursued by a faceless, untiring, superhuman machine of Justice.
Speaking of superhuman, I’ll be presenting a lecture entitled Streamline Superman and the Deco Dark Knight at the Queen Mary Art Deco Festival this Labor Day weekend! If you’re in the Long Beach area, come check it out. In the meantime, if this analysis was too short, be sure to check out other bloggers for The Film Experience’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series!