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The Getaway (1972)

March 7, 2011

8/10 Shotgun Stories

Goes by a pretty standard formula, but it Steve McQueen clearing house with a 12-gauge, and that is totally badass.

The Getaway is about a bank robber who gets out of jail and has to pull a job for the guy who helped get him parole. He plans everything out to a tee for what should be an in-and-out heist, but then the big day finally comes and one of the dipshits he was forced to work with decides to get greedy and winds up botching the whole thing. Before he knows it, the shit has completely hit the fan and everyone wants him dead, so he hits the road with his missus and tries to book it on down to Mexico before his former employers catch up with him.

Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched a Sam Peckinpah movie, and being that the only other thing of his that I’ve seen is Straw Dogs, the sad truth of the matter is that I haven’t been doing my homework. But from what I’ve gathered so far, Peckinpah seems to be one very gritty dude who sure likes violence, knows how to film it and doesn’t mess around. And, in a nutshell, that’s what this movie’s all about. It’s not exactly new territory by today’s standards and I doubt it was new territory by ’72s standards either, but regardless, bank heists and shootouts have always been a solid formula to go by and Peckinpah isn’t out to fix what ain’t broken.

So this here script was mostly written by and adapted from a novel of the same name by one Jim Thompson. I for one have never read it, I’ve actually never read anything by the guy even though I’m pretty sure I’d eat all right up, but considering that this is the same guy who wrote the source material for The Killer Inside Me and The Grifters amongst other gems, I think “gritty” may very well be the word of the day with this review. If none of this is ringing any bells, the long and short of it is that Thompson was all about pulp fiction and pitch black noir, he had a thing for writing about professionals and madmen, and he could write mean, sharp dialogue like a bastard. It’s awesome stuff, it’s old school cool at its finest, and it’s as kickass to listen to as it is to watch.

And there’s a lot of that here, but by the same token, I wish there had been more. Like the premise, the dialogue is somewhat by-the-books and seems to rely a bit much on the cast members being stone cold sonsabitches to carry it along, and that’s fine, but I’m of the mindset that you could have Gilbert Gottfried read aloud some of Thompson’s dialogue and he’d sound just as legit as McQueen would doing it. All the same, the script is straightforward, it lays out some great opportunities for Peckinpah and McQueen to go to town in the action department, and that’s good business.

But I don’t know how kindly the ladies in the crowd might take to some of the more chauvinistic tendencies this takes on every once and again. You’ve got McQueen slapping the bejeesus out of his girl by the side of the road, the main dickhead of the hour forcing a married woman to go down on him at gunpoint, and McQueen punching Sally Struthers’ lights out. Then again, watching Struthers get KO’ed was pretty darn hilarious. But those first two examples are the kind of stuff that I had a big problem with in The Killer Inside Me and it’s always fucked up to watch a guy lay into a woman like that. I wasn’t crazy about it and I always feel weird endorsing movies with that kind of stuff in ’em, but alas, it’s hard to write off everything else I liked about this movie even if Thompson could have toned that nonsense down.

Anyway, not that it even warrants saying, but Steve McQueen kicks ass as our guy “Doc” McCoy. Folks, there’s a reason he made the banner up there, and when you see him here in action, you’ll understand why. He was his own stuntman whether it was behind the wheel or in the line of fire, he never has to yell to command attention, and he was just one of those rare icons who knew how to get a lot out of a little. Doesn’t have much of an emotional range going, but he doesn’t need it since he gets it done without even trying.

Ali McGraw ain’t too bad either as McCoy’s main squeeze, Carol, but she gets very much overshadowed by McQueen since he’s as “manly” as they come and this whole story is completely driven by dudes who don’t seem to have a problem with beating chicks. Still, she holds her own and has a whole lot of attitude to boot. And Al Letteri’s an asshole for the record books as that greedy dipshit who threw a wrench into works for McCoy at the get-go. Just an absolute scumbag through and through, did a great job of making the audience hate his ass.

And bonus points for a freakin’ great Slim Pickens cameo.

But while the cast is tops, I wasn’t a big fan of Quincy Jones’ funkadelic score. Doesn’t quite mesh with everything that’s happening on-screen and the whole thing would have been better off without music at all. Nor was I a big fan of the ending that seemed like a Hollywood cop out and completely negated an otherwise important shooutout between McQueen and Letteri during the last five minutes of the movie. Luckily Slim Pickens is there to smooth things out, but still, it really didn’t fall in line with everything else that was so damn gritty.

But whatever, The Getaway isn’t rocket science and that’s also the appeal. I shouldn’t have written this much about this movie because not only am I worried about sounding like a douche, but this isn’t the kind of movie you need to overanalyze. You take one of the coolest actors of all-time, give him a shotgun and tell him to go to town for two hours, that right there’s a movie I’d wanna watch. Even with the weak ending, even with the weird soundtrack and even if the writing wasn’t on the same level as some of Thompson’s other efforts, this movie is cool as shit and I dug the hell out of it. Some totally wild shootouts (and that’s coming from someone who generally loathes action scenes filmed in slow-mo) and this is just one more reason why I feel like an idiot for never having gotten around to The Wild Bunch.

For shame…

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2011 8:03 am

    Greta review Aiden, this is one of Peckinpah’s most accessible films in my opinion. Nowhere near as good as Straw Dogs though. I always watch the film and think about McGraw and McQueen having their affair behind Robert Evans’ back (who I think was married to McGraw at the time). Good characters and action though – we had to watch this in film school – one of the more enjoyable lectures!

    • March 7, 2011 2:19 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, way more accessible than Straw Dogs, but those are totally different movies, too. And I remember hearing about that affair back when I saw The Kid Stays in the Picture. What a bummer, but you’re playing with fire putting your wife in the same movie as McQueen. Very cool that you got to watch this for a class, sounds a hell of a lot better than the movies I had to watch.

  2. March 7, 2011 4:50 pm

    I’m sorry guys but I actually just saw this recently as it came highly recommended by my friend. Unfortunately I can’t say I love it (that’s putting it mildly), I mean I tried but I found the whole thing to be kinda silly. For one, I felt like the couple had plenty of chances to escape from that scumbag Letteri (totally agree your assessment on him, I just hated him so much watching this!) I mean the guy was injured and let’s just say he wasn’t all that energetic to begin with.

    The only funny part for me was when McQueen tried to get into the car to escape and McGraw accidentally hit the gas and so the car door slipped from his hand and he yelped, ‘what the hell is wrong with you?!’ I laughed so hard in that scene even though it probably wasn’t meant to be all that comedic. Anyway, sorry but I don’t think I’ll be seeing any of Peckinpah’s film any time soon.

    • March 8, 2011 9:30 am

      Haha. I forgot about that part, very funny.

      Sorry it wasn’t your thing, Ruth, but I hear ya’. Not sure if this is at all like some of Peckinpah’s other stuff, but will report back on that.

  3. March 7, 2011 5:41 pm

    Great film, great director, great original book, but you lose points for saying that McGraw wasn’t too bad. That poor girl couldn’t act if her life depended on it.

    • March 7, 2011 5:44 pm

      Hahaha. Didn’t think she was THAT bad, but I’ve never seen Love Story, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

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