THE LEGEND OF BUTCH & SUNDANCE – THE TV MOVIE

The Legend of Butch & Sundance (2006) is a curious movie. Filmed in 2003 and intended for a 2004 release as a TV movie on NBC, it did not air until two years after that. Conceived as a TV pilot for a series that did not materialize, this 89-minute family-friendly Western features some interesting performances, effective location shots, and stirring musical tracks. Starring David Clayton Rogers as Butch Cassidy and Ryan Browning as the Sundance Kid, the film is worth a look for those intrigued by various interpretations of the two iconic outlaws.

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Rogers as Cassidy, Browning as Sundance / Image – notrecinema.com

The Legend of Butch & Sundance begins with the imprisonment of a young Cassidy for horse theft and his subsequent early release, with a promise to no longer commit crime in Wyoming. Returning to his mentor, Mike Cassidy (played by the ever-capable Michael Biehn), and the hide-out of the Wild Bunch, he soon meets the Sundance Kid and a friendship is struck. That bond brings entanglements as Butch falls for Sundance’s girlfriend, Etta Place (Rachelle Lefevre), despite Etta’s attempts to set Cassidy up with her sister. In a credit to all three lead (Rogers, Browning, and Lefevre), the triangular relationship does exude both easy familiarity and tension.

Unbeknownst to the Wild Bunch, they have been infiltrated by a Pinkerton agent, that detective agency having been commissioned by the railroads to end outlaw activity. The death of his mentor at the hands of the detectives will focus Cassidy to strike back against those responsible and that revenge is in fact set within a larger framework – actions against banks and corporate railroads are a justified defense against their oppression of free-riding cowboys, small ranchers, and poor citizens. Prior to this death, Mike Cassidy gives a speech to his men, decrying the decreasing freedom in the West:

The railroads own the banks, they control all the money, they decide who gets the loans, they’ll foreclose on anybody that gets in their way…a handful of evil men are choking the life out of the West….a handful of men can stop them…here’s a toast to y’all…men who ride free….the Wild Bunch!

For those who know the story of Cassidy and Sundance, the TV movie does remain faithful to their eventual escape from the US, but gives a different ending to that journey than what was offered by the 1969 film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Here is a trailer for The Legend of Butch & Sundance (2006):

Filmed in the Calgary, Alberta, area, the cinematography took effective advantage of winter conditions during two separate bank robbery sequences to give a palpable sense of both the cold and the mud created in an Old West town from snow. The late composer, Basil Poledouris, famous for his epic scores in such films as Conan the Barbarian (1982), and The Hunt for Red October (1990), did the soundtrack. Also of note, Mark Consuelos acquits himself well in a small role during the final act of the story.

The DVD for The Legend of Butch & Sundance (2006) can be found via various online retailers. The movie was produced by Lionsgate Films. (Note: front page image from flixster.com)

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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