Seen by Martin before? No
What did I expect? A brutal thrill ride.
What did I get? Is The Getaway a brilliant jape, a comedy so black it masquerades as a niftily shot thriller about a busted heist? A movie that gives every principal the finger, with a leading man whose pointlessly staunch affect anticipated the stardom of Leslie Nielsen by nearly a decade? Sadly, I think not — although there are occasional glimmers of such a possibility, which admittedly is a delicious one. Assuming it isn’t, then The Getaway is best understood as a diseased movie, a polished morsel of cynical entertainment injected with a healthy heaping of bile.
Peckinpah’s in charge, so form and content are operating on wildly disparate planes. Judged solely by his skill at putting one frame after the other, Peckinpah is one hell of a director. He’s so good, in fact, that it frequently creates a mis-impression of what is going on in the movie. Every time a gun goes off, which is often, Peckinpah overcranks the camera, slowing down the tumbling bodies and shattering car mirrors to a suitably elegaic pace. But nothing about the movie is elegaic; in fact, it’s mildly jaundiced, reflexively violent, and placidly cynical.
As the title suggests, The Getaway is about a fucked-up heist and the ensuing dogged scramble to exact revenge and secure the cash. McQueen and MacGraw are “Doc” and Carol McCoy; her dalliance with a local business honcho has improbably secured Doc’s early parole (and obligated him to take part in the heist). But now Doc doesn’t trust Carol, and neither knows that psychotic co-conspirator Rudy Butler has kidnapped a veterinarian and his wife, with grimly humorous results. Rudy’s notion is to get the money back and kill whoever needs killing at the El Paso hotel everyone’s converging at. Meanwhile, Doc’s refusal to liquidate inconvenient witnesses, co-conspirators etc., repeatedly gets him into trouble; he’s too nice a guy, or something.
Judging from the health of the only two marriages depicted, true love is a farce. And the desire for money leads to ignoble activities like clawing one’s way out of a garbage dump. Appearing to OD on the filmic magic that causes audiences to bond with opaque-ish movie characters like Rick Blaine in Casablanca, the makers of The Getaway unaccountably forgot the rest. McQueen’s elusive charms work intermittently, and MacGraw is awful. In real life, they were in love. This was in all the papers.
Oh, it’s a serviceable thriller, all right. If you put it on mute, it’s probably awesome. It helps a little if you pretend it’s a Jacobean revenge tragedy.
What here smacks of 1972? The odd mix of ambition and vapidity.
IMDB score: 7.5
My score: 5
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Writer: Walter Hill
Starring: Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson, Sally Struthers, Al Lettieri, Roy Jenson, Richard Bright, Jack Dodson, Slim Pickens, Bo Hopkins, Dub Taylor
IMDB synopsis: Doc McCoy has been granted parole. The catch is that Sheriff Beynon expects a small favor from McCoy for his generosity: robbing another bank! Beynon does not really intend to let McCoy walk away after the heist and neither does co-robber Rudy Butler, but stopping Doc proves a trifle difficult.