Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Getaway (1972)

I noticed that The Getaway is scheduled to be on TCM tomorrow afternoon at 5:45 PM. (It's supposed to be on again at 12:15 AM on July 16 as part of a Saturday night prime time lineup.) So I decided that now would be a good time to watch it off my DVR and do a full-length post on it here. You can also get it on DVD and Blu-ray at the TCM Shop, as well as Amazon streaming video.

Steve McQueen plays Doc McCoy, who's in prison in Texas, but is up for parole, and dreams of getting out so he can see his wife Carol (Ali McGraw). Unfortunately, his parole is denied. So his wife goes to a bigwig who apparently can pull some strings, Jack Benyon (Ben Johnson), and tells Benyon that Doc is ready to pay whatever price Benyon sets for Doc's parole.

That price turns out to be taking part in a bank heist. Benyon's brother is a manager at a small town bank that gets a large amount of cash for an oil company payroll, and Doc and a couple of other guys are going to pull off the heist. So they prepare for the heist, which immediately goes wrong because that's what happens in the movies. The other guys in the heist kill a couple of people at the bank, and then one, Rudy (Al Lettieri), kills the other during the getaway.

Doc realizes he's been set up, so he goes to Benyon and shoots him dead, and then goes to the rendezvous with Rudy and shoots Rudy dead. Doc and Carol then try to make it to Mexico, although they have to deal with the authorities and Carol's incompetence that makes Doc wonder whether she was in on the set-up too.

Oh, and it turns out that Doc wasn't such a good shot. It certainly looks from the scene in which he shot Rudy that Rudy died, but not only did he not die, he remains well enough to move around and search for Doc to try to get the money. To that end, Rudy kidnaps a husband and wife Harold and Fran (Jack Dodson and Sally Struthers) and makes them drive after Doc.

In many ways it's a formulaic heist movie, or at least formulaic in the fact that the heist goes wrong and everybody turns on everybody else. But a couple of things stand out. One is that the heist is over with pretty early, so much of of the action in this one than even in something like The Asphalt Jungle is about the attempt to get away and the double-cross. The other thing is the portrayal of the violence, of which there is a lot in this film.

Now, I don't have a problem with violence in movies. But director Sam Peckinpah's depiction of it in this movie does bother me for artistic reasons. Peckinpah seems to want everybody to die in slow-motion so that, when there's a shooting, time seems to slow down and the deaths look overdone to the point of tedium. (The movie also runs a little over two hours, and probably could have done with a script that ran 20 minutes less.) We get it, Sam.

It's a shame that Peckinpah went down this road, because the rest of the movie is well made, with good performances from McQueen and McGraw, and a lovely look at Texas as it was in the early-1970s. The production design has an authentic feel to it that doesn't seem all that common to me in the movies, with maybe Panic in Needle Park being one of the other early 1970s movies I was reminded of.

Still, this is one that a lot of people love more than I do, so you'll probably want to watch and judge for yourself.

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