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  Getaway, The Hot Pursuit
Year: 1972
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Stars: Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson, Sally Struthers, Al Lettieri, Slim Pickens, Richard Bright, Jack Dodson, Dub Taylor, Bo Hopkins, Roy Jenson, John Bryson, Bill Hart, Tom Runyon, Whitney Jones
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Doc McCoy (Steve McQueen) has been in prison for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon for about four years, and has applied for parole, but when he goes to see the governor he is told that in spite of his good behaviour, his release has been denied. He returns to his cell, feeling frustrated and as if he wants to lash out, but he controls his anger and the next time his wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) visits him, he tells her that he will do what has to be done to get free: and that is agree to conduct a bank robbery on behalf of influential but corrupt businessman Jack Benyon (Ben Johnson)...

Based on a novel by Jim Thompson? Adapted by Walter Hill? Directed by Sam Peckinpah? And starring Steve McQueen? We must be in hardboiled heaven, surely? And to some extent, this film's cult resides on those credentials and the way they were brought together to film this shades of villainy thriller, where the only reason we are on the side of McCoy is that his rivals are even worse than he is. McQueen's charisma helps of course, making a man who uses violence to get his way more often than not sympathetic, mainly because we cannot see any other way he can extricate himself from a sticky situation.

Not that this excuses McCoy's actions, but that's how you're intended to react to him, as if he were a romantic outlaw of the kind you would see in westerns, and the baking Texan landscapes go some way to enforcing that allusion. Our antihero is reluctant to return to a life of crime, another point in his favour, and only complies because he cannot see any other way to leave the suffocating world of jail behind, but this film is called The Getaway, so you may be wondering when the event of the title is going to get underway.

In fact, there's about an hour of setting up before McCoy and Carol are on the run proper, and the film's laconic style can sap some of the life out of what should be fairly tense sequences: maybe it's that unrelenting heat that the characters appear to be labouring under. The robbery goes well in that the gang secure the cash, but not so well in that a security guard is killed, the robber who shot him has to be disposed of by his colleague Rudy (Al Lettieri), and he also plans to bump off McCoy. However, McCoy draws his gun first and leaves Rudy for dead - but he had been wearing a bulletproof vest and is merely knocked out.

The Getaway improves the further it goes on as you get used to the personalities involved, and the plotting brings some very decent action and suspense scenes. Sometimes it's just the details that bring out the story's deep cynicism: the resigned look on the face of the gun shop owner as McCoy robs him, for example, and other times it's a whole relationship, as the bloodied but unbowed Rudy bullies a doctor and his wife (Sally Struthers) into helping him only for the wife to decide she prefers him to her husband. The bond between McCoy and Carol is no less fraught with tension, and as usual in Peckinpah women are not to be entirely trusted - McCoy says the only thing he trusts is money - which renders the affirmation of their love at the end, thanks to Slim Pickens funnily enough, a little suspect. Nevertheless, if you wanted Peckinpah at his most commercial, then here was the film for you. Music by Quincy Jones.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Sam Peckinpah  (1925 - 1984)

American writer and director, a hard-drinking, producer-hating maverick who was as much reviled as he was admired. After a spell in the armed forces, he moved into television with a succession of westerns, and graduated to film with The Deadly Companions and cult classic Ride the High Country. When he worked on Major Dundee, the problems started, and, as would happen many times subsequently, the film was recut against his wishes.

In 1969, Peckinpah won huge respect for The Wild Bunch, which saw him employ the vivid, bloody violence that would become his trademark. He spent the seventies crafting a series of notable thrillers and westerns, such as the humorous Ballad of Cable Hogue, the reflective Junior Bonner, controversial Straw Dogs, hit Steve McQueen vehicle The Getaway, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the intense, one-of-a-kind Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Killer Elite, WWII story Cross of Iron, and comparitively light hearted Convoy.

Throughout this decade, Peckinpah's reputation amongst studios dropped to such an extent that he could barely find work by the eighties, and his last film, The Osterman Weekend, represented an attempt to reclaim past glories. Sadly, he died shortly after it was completed, while planning to bring an original Stephen King script to the screen. As an actor, he can be seen in friend Don Siegel's Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Monte Hellman's China 9 Liberty 37.

 
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