I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Getaway (1972)

Now this is what I call a fuckin MOVIE. I forgot about it until seeing it on Bravo today but it is even better now that I’m older and now that I’ve done my own bid. First though, a word about Bravo. This is the “film and arts network” they CLAIM, but they don’t have the balls to live up to that slogan. You know how Sam Peckinpah movies always have the real slick opening credits with the freeze frames and the atmosphere and what not? They show these in widescreen and your thinking, “Look at that! Look at that rectangular screen! That atmosphere! THIS is a fuckin MOVIE.”

And then it says “directed by Sam Peckinpah” and BAM, no more widescreen. No, that’s just so the words will fit, we don’t need it anymore. The picture is square and cramped and the film is all faded and dark and you’re thinkin, “What is this crap, Hunter?”

The GetawayBut worse, at the end of the movie, the credits come up and BLOOOOOP, the screen shrinks down to unreadable size and the rest of the screen is giving trivia about Carter Burwell. And I’m sure I’d like that dude as much as the next guy if I knew what movies he was in but jesus man, this is the film and arts network, you gotta understand some of us Cinema appreciaters such as myself and some of these other motherfuckers, they want to read the damn credits.

Anyway the Getaway. This is the story of Steve McQueen as Doc McCoy, an armed robber who just got out of the joint. Which I think alot of us can relate to. Doc goes on a job that goes a little sour. For one thing, his partner Rudy tries to kill him. So he and his wife Ali McGraw take the money and run for the Mexican border. Along the way they have to deal with cops, Rudy and others chasing after them. And they have a lot of problems and they go through alot of cars and at one point some fucking pickpocket scum even swipes their bag at the train station. What a pain in the ass.

There are alot of movies with this type of story but this is the more Artistic kind where the directorial techniquery elevates it to an epic. It is also important to note that Steve McQueen is one of the best Badasses of all time. I don’t think I need to tell some of you but you young kids, you gotta realize this is a bad motherfucker. This is the guy I would’ve wanted to play me in a movie. We don’t have many left of this school of Badass, I think Clint may be the only one left who’s doing lead roles. I’m not talking about these wisecracking pretty boys we have now, I’m talking about the quiet older guys with the wrinkled foreheads, the guys with the narrow eyes, maybe a few scars. Guys like Steve, Clint, Chuck Connors, maybe throw in Charles Bronson, who has a good mustache by the way. Steve is clean shaven but whatever happened to mustaches in Badass films, man? The Getaway is Texas in the ’70s so there are alot of supporting mustaches in this one and I feel that is important to the success of the picture.

But the real reason why The Getaway is so great is because of the director Mr. Sam Peckinpah who has an undeniable sense for the filmatic language as well as this guy is a poet. And by poet I mean a guy who drinks alot and can’t help but have all of his problems and attitudes pour onto his works even if they are a for-hire job like this one. I do not mean he rhymes, there are no rhymes in this picture as far as I noticed although I will pay attention to that if I see it again.

Now this is gonna be a controversial statement, but hear me out. I have a theory that Sam Peckinpah, he had a problem with women. The ladies in his pictures are always terrorized. They get hit, they get raped, they cry alot. In The Getaway, this slob Rudy takes a couple hostage and the wife instantly falls for Rudy. The husband soon hangs himself (Peckinpah hates wimps) and the wife doesn’t seem to even notice, but she cries hysterically for Rudy.

Still, I think Peckinpah is at least trying to treat a woman right, and this movie is really about a relationship in my opinion and maybe should be called The Relationship not The Getaway. Ali McGraw gets Doc out of the can by sleeping with a fat dude on the parole board. In exchange Doc has to help out with a job, and this parole fuck also makes a deal with Ali to turn on Doc. She chooses Doc and kills the parole dude but the jealousy lingers.

Even before that, though, there is tension in the relationship. As Ali takes her shirt off the day Doc gets out, Doc doesn’t know what to do. He says, “It does somethin to ya. It does somethin to ya. It does somethin to ya in there.”

As they face more problems in their run for the border, they seem to get farther apart. You know they’re gonna get back together by the end but hell man, I think it works because it seems honest. I don’t think Doc is the best husband for Ali to be frankly honest, but the story is still touching in my opinion because Peckinpah means it.

That’s cause this Peckinpah really was all about contradictions and what not. He knew he was a true Artist but he worked for hire and called himself a whore. He said he hated battling with executives but he couldn’t stop doing it. And he had a spectacular talent for filming violence, but seemed to be appalled by the whole idea of it. The Wild Bunch was meant to be so gruesome that it would show violence for its ugly self. The Getaway isn’t the same type of picture but it follows on those themes – practically every gunfight has several shots of innocent little kids peeking around corners to watch. When Rudy jumps out of a car, a kid pokes at his body, and when Doc is on a train a kid threatens him with a squirt gun.

What I like best about the Peckinpah pictures though is not only the feel, but the little touches that you haven’t seen in another movie. Like when Rudy is flirting with the wife by throwing barbecued ribs at her in the car. They’re all giggling and throwing ribs at each other and the husband is driving and he can barely stand it. And eventually Rudy starts to lose the rib fight and even though he started it he gets pissed and starts yelling. What a fucking baby. And that is really the type of dude you deal with half the time in this business, in my opinion.

But my favorite scene in the movie, like in many Badass pictures, is just one of those Badass touches where the Badass does something so god damned Badass you can’t believe it. In this one, Doc leaves Ali in the car and walks into a store: “I need a radio, portable.” Doc starts to walk away without collecting his change just as the clerk turns and sees a sketch of Doc on all the TVs in the store.

But Doc doesn’t panic, or even run. He leans into the car, says, “We got trouble, you better clear out the car,” walks directly into a gunshop next door and says, “I need a shotgun.” And THAT type of thing is what this movie, and all Peckinpah movies, is about. Plus relationships.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 1st, 2003 at 12:41 pm and is filed under Action, Crime, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “The Getaway (1972)”

  1. Damn! I purchased BULLIT on Blu-ray today ( hey,that rhimes!) and it made me think of this bad motherfucker of a movie. Í taped it when it was on swedish tv and watched it a bunch of times. It has some of the best shotgun-sequences I´ve seen ( A BETTER TOMORROW 2 is another ,maybe because it´s Woo and he also likes slow-mo shotgun-scenes) . McQueen is tearing up a police car with a shottie in broad daylight. man, that IS bad-ass ,meanwhile that whole hostage subplot was real nasty and fucked up. If I ermember right, the remake didn´t wuss out on this part and included the same shit. Man, this movie has balls the size of Texas.( I myself has never been to Texas, but it seems to be a pretty large place). I´d also like to mention that the guy playing Rudi is Al Lettieri from MR MAJESTYK. Now you know, you need to watch this fucker. Damn!

  2. The relationship angle goes even deeper and is better developed in the original novel by Jim Thompson, who also wrote the original script and included the El Rey ending in it. Unfortunately, McQueen considered it a downer (and it was, which was sort of the point) and it was removed when Walter Hill rewrote it. I highly suggest tracking it down.

    If nothing else I feel like it also gives a bit of added heft to From Dusk ‘Til Dawn where Tarantino also uses El Rey as the Mexican hideaway that the Gecko Brothers are fleeing to. Presumably it was just a name drop rather than a direct allusion to his future, but sometimes it’s fun to imagine that it turns out roughly the same way. Except with vampires and foot fetishim.

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