Carter "Doc" McCoy is a career robber, currently in his fourth year of a ten year prison sentence at the Texas State Penitentiary. After his request for parole is denied despite he being a model prisoner, Doc, unable emotionally to endure life inside, asks his loving wife Carol McCoy to contact crooked businessman Jack Beynon, a man with political connections, to secure his release in return for he being "for sale" to Beynon. Beynon is able to get Doc released, the sale price being for Doc to plan and execute a robbery at a small bank branch in Beacon City, Texas where Beynon knows that $750,000 will be kept in the vault for the next two weeks. Rather than Doc using his own men for the job, Beynon directs that the only other people involved will be the men of his own choosing, Rudy and Frank. There are to be no casualties, which is all right with Doc who is not a murderer. After the robbery is completed and the monies divvied up accordingly, Doc and Carol will cross the border into ... Written by
I consider "The getaway" a true masterpiece, on the same level of Sam Peckinpah's major achievements (save "The wild bunch", of course). I learn from IMDb comments that the final cut of the movie was made by other people (McQueen ?!) than the director. Moreover the plot is much unfaithful to the original novel... Well... anyway the result is excellent.
Doc (Steve McQueen) is a tough, laconic guy, Carol (Ali McGraw) a tough, laconic woman. In some sense, they mostly speak just for technical reasons: "Take the money-bag", "Don't scratch your wound"... If they've nothing to say, they keep quiet. They seem shy to express their reciprocal feelings, even unable to say "I love you". Doc cannot accept what Carol has done, although just to help him out of jail. They both silently suffer for this, with some explosions of violence by Doc, and a ready gritty reply by Carol. But the audience well understand from their body-language how much they love each other. I think that McQueen and McGraw made a superb job in their difficult roles. Strangely enough, their performances, as well as their lines, received much criticism. I fear that people didn't like their job since they are too used to the current way of acting: hysterical, screaming, awfully clown-like. With lines that are just floods of stupid, pointless, annoying chats. A not welcome legacy of the style created by Tarantino, Oliver Stone and imitators. Nothing could be more far-away from Peckinpah's artistic taste.
The story of the movie is linear, but not trivial. The cinematography and montage are outstanding. The pace is somewhat slow, partially due to the great care paid to details. But when it's the time of action, nobody can compete with Peckinpah's grand style.
In every movie of his, Peckinpah shows his genius with some astonishing, stark new cinematic ideas. In "The getaway" we find the paramount representation of the "power of the shot-gun". Doc's shot-gun bullets destroy police-cars, devastate a whole hotel, demolish an elevator, knock down a door slaughtering the thug hidden behind... the recoil of the weapon lifts Doc's shoulder... Who remembers that this stuff, nowadays almost a cliche in action-movies, was introduced in "The getaway"? It's worth noting that an early imitator of Peckinpah's "shot-gun scenes" was Steven Spielberg in "Sugarland express".
Some words on the sub-plot concerned with the hateful Rudy (Al Lettieri) and the cretinous Fran (Sally Struthers). This part of the film is deliberately disagreeable, up to an almost unbearable point. As usual, Peckinpah doesn't miss his chance to be hated by the feminists, with his design of Fran. A damned idiot, nymphomaniac just for stupidity. At the end, when Doc hits her (a punch straight on her prating, whimpering mouth!) the director nearly provokes a standing ovation by the audience (men and women, as well). If that's not cinematic genius, what else is it? And, speaking of imitators, how much Tarantino's characters owe to Rudy and Fran?
Perhaps "The getaway" could have been even better without extraneous interference. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic film, a must-see.
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