Rating: The Good – 89.4 Genre: Western Duration: 110 mins Director: George Roy Hill Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross
George Roy Hill’s iconic western is an inspired piece of film-making that takes a very different approach to the archetypal western. Adopting a humorous and light-hearted approach for much of the film, it gives the genre the time to breathe that it normally doesn’t receive and in focusing on one of the eras most legendary friendships it romanticises the old west in a manner more touching too. This was the first joint outing for Paul Newman and Robert Redford and they form an irresistible duo that easily goes down as the best on-screen partnership the medium has offered up. The two play off each other seamlessly and deliver two fascinating and novel characterisations. Newman is hysterical as the every-man Butch, the leader of the infamous Hole-in-the-Wall gang, while Redford is pitch perfect as the lightning fast gunslinger.
The action only kicks in about half way through when in the midst of all the gang’s usual shenanigans, a breakneck chase suddenly erupts which sees Butch and Sundance being pursued across mountain and desert by a ruthless posse of specialists. Hill’s decision to never show the faces of the posse was inspired and it gives the near half-hour long pursuit a real edge. In fact, there’s arguably not another chase sequence that is as electric or effectively shot as this one. Katherine Ross comes to the fore more in the final act as the woman in the middle but never in between and adds a nice counterpoint to the pair.
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid is really a perfect film which plays by its own rules. The level of ingenuity and innovation that Hill brings to the shooting of it from the fleeting use of monochrome to the integration of Burt Bacharach’s counter-intuitive yet seminal soundtrack, ensures that there’s not a frame in it where you don’t notice something special. It’s also a genuinely funny and at times hysterical film thanks chiefly to the telepathic understanding shared between the leads but also William Goldman’s sublime script. With a movie that boasts such perfection it is, therefore, quite fitting that Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid signs off with one of the great cinematic salutes and in doing so immortalises its two heroes in splendid fashion. Cinema magic.
Sidney Lumet must have felt that having made what is generally regarded as one of the best “court-room” dramas in history without shooting more than one scene inside the courtroom (12 Angry Men) that he was obliged to, at some point, make a great courtroom drama where much of the dramatic punch was actually delivered in a courtroom. Mission accomplished. Paul Newman stars as the washed up alcoholic ambulance chaser Frank Galvin who sees an opportunity for redemption in a malpractice case which nobody thinks he can win. Lumet sets a remarkably slow but immensely arresting pace throughout this film and in doing so, he imbues the drama with all shades of theme, tone, and meaning to fully convey the sense and weight of Galvin’s desperate life. Newman was quite simply never better and he gives one of the purest acting performances the medium has offered in its long history. With every word, look, and movement we see a depth of decay and self-loathing constantly threatening to consume him but staved off by the one thing that is bolstering them: his innate decency. Jack Warden is, as always, pitch perfect in support as Galvin’s old mentor and James Mason and Milo O’Sea do their utmost in helping to sound out some of the film’s more menacing tones. The Verdict is as satisfying a film as you’ll see which is a feat in itself given it tells an ostensibly depressing story. But it’s to Newman and Lumet’s credit that they not only root out the humanity in this dark tale but also shine such an honest light on it.
Rating: The Good – 84.5 Genre: Drama Duration: 129 mins Director: George Roy Hill Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
The greatest caper movie of them all. George Roy Hill’s classic about two grifters (Paul Newman and Robert Redford) attempting to con a wealthy gangster (Robert Shaw) is a triumph of cinematography and production design thanks largely to that wonderful use of sepia tones. Newman and Redford are terrific together and prove their on-screen chemistry in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was no fluke while Shaw is fantastic as the nefarious Doyle Lonnegan. With all the twists and turns this one takes and with the great characters and dialogue on show there’s more than enough to keep the audience engrossed throughout. The Sting is what movies are all about. “Ya follow?”
Rating: The Good – 82.9 Genre: Drama Duration: 134 mins Director: Robert Rossen Stars: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie
Paul Newman gives a tour de force performance in this darkly affecting drama about a pool hall hustler determined to prove that he’s the best regardless of all costs. The Hustler has many strengths, but the dialogue and the acting deserve the most credit. Newman is in fine form as Fast Eddie Felson and even his pool work looks up to the pace. Jackie Gleeson is stylish and effortlessly charismatic as Minnesota Fats, Piper Laurie is outstanding as Felson’s depressed girlfriend, and George C. Scott is perfectly sinister as Felson’s ruthless manager. The pool scenes give this otherwise dark drama a real electricity and watching the two titans glide around the table locked in a combat of artistry and wit is a real treat.
Rating: The Good – 76.8 Genre: Drama, Thriller Duration: 116 mins Director: Sydney Pollack Stars: Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Wilford Brimley
A forgotten gem from one of cinema’s greatest eras has Paul Newman starring as the son of a former bootlegger who becomes the target of a campaign orchestrated by the head of a local organised crime task force and the unwitting but uncaring newspaper doing his bidding. Newman is as ever terrific as the shrewd but honest Miami businessman and Sally Field just about manages not to grate as the snooping reporter who initially sets him up but eventually gets involved with him. Bob Balaban does particularly well as the nasty task force chief and brings his usual intense presence to the movie. Wilford Brimely steals his one scene with typical gusto and Josef Sommer also features to good effect. Ultimately though, this film is a triumph of writing and directing. Kurt Luedtke’s clever script is unpredictable and wholly engaging and in a film with no physical action whatsoever Sydney Pollack’s steady hand defies the odds and keeps the story as riveting as any action thriller. In place of physical feats, the drama in Absence of Malice revolves around the intellectual head-to-heads which emerge as the various characters engage in a series mind games (some more sophisticated than others) until only one far superior operator is left standing. And for fans of a good cinematic showdown that’s one moment you won’t want to miss.
Rating: The Good – 69.2 Genre: Thriller Duration: 125 mins Director: Daniel Petrie Sr Screenplay: Heywood Gould Stars: Paul Newman, Edward Asner, Ken Wahl, Pam Grier
This minor gem about two cops working the South Bronx has seemingly been forgotten or perhaps it was never remembered as well as it deserved to be. Paul Newman plays the veteran officer Murphy whose compassionate approach to his job is in contrast to the cynicism and heavy-handedness of many of his fellow officers. Ken Wahl plays his slick young partner whose ambition lets him look past all of the corruption that beleaguers Murphy. The film plays out more as an Altman-like series of vignettes that are threaded together from the beginning by a murderous hooker played with a disturbingly quiet menace by Pam Grier. The result is an easy flowing and original police story which is really quite enjoyable. There’s also an authenticity to the film which is sadly missing from many more modern police dramas that is partly due to the many location shots and partly due to the terrific performances from all concerned. Standing out as always is the effortlessly brilliant Newman who gives the Irish cop genuine personality and humour but equally handles the more dramatic scenes with aplomb. If you like the lighter crime dramas of the 70’s and 80’s then this is definitely for you.
Rating: The Good – 71.6 Genre: Thriller Duration: 103 mins Director: John Huston Screenplay: Walter Hill Stars: Paul Newman, Dominique Sanda, James Mason
Cracking good John Huston thriller which has been unfortunately forgotten over the years. Paul Newman stars as a British secret agent who assumes a false identify and sees to it that he gets sent to prison for 15 months where he attempts to infiltrate a gang of professional prison breakers. Things go wrong and it becomes apparent that he is involved in something far bigger and more political. This is an excellently crafted film and while nowhere near Huston’s best work it has touches of his rare genius throughout. The cast is replete with scene stealers with James Mason setting the example as usual. Newman is as watchable as ever in the lead and while some of the physical confrontations come off as quite dated there is some decent action in the form of a foot chase across the Irish countryside (something another Irishman might have borrowed heavily from years later when writing No Country for Old Men) and a car chase along part of the scenic Connemara coast. The plot is above average particularly compared to what we see in modern thrillers and while the story makes some leaps here and there, it generally tracks rather well.