“The Getaway” is the second film that Steve McQueen and Sam Peckinpah did together* and it came right after their first collaboration on “Junior Bonner”. It is a heist film first and foremost, but if I had to sum it up I’d call it a Steve McQueen film - in the same sense that “Bullitt” is a Steve McQueen film. But it is certainly a Sam Peckinpah picture as well, only to a lesser extent simply because it strikes me as watered down when compared to Peckinpah’s other work. A big reason for this may very well be the simple fact that McQueen had final cut on “The Getaway”, and not Peckinpah. But then again that should not matter all too much since “The Getaway” is a thoroughly enjoyable heist film.
The story follows Doc McCoy (Steve McQueen) and his wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) as they are on the run, on their way to Mexico, after a bank job goes horribly wrong. The main character dynamic of the film is of course between Mr. and Mrs. McCoy and the strain the getaway is putting on their relationship, as well as the idea of what Carol had to do in order to get Doc out of prison.
This film is also very much famous for its backstage shenanigans as it was the film that sparked the love affair between McQueen and MacGraw, and this attraction is very much present on the screen as they do have wonderful chemistry together. McQueen is probably in his coolest edition in this film, giving a wonderful and confident performance. MacGraw on the other hand is less confident, but she is stunning and her beauty and mentioned chemistry with McQueen make up for the somewhat lacking performance.
The rest of the cast is great however as is the overall technical side of the production, making “The Getaway” a wonderful and stylish action/heist film. Still the most interesting aspects of the film are those Peckinpah moments of psychological finesse as well as his hallmark bursts of visual style and shocking violence. This is however somewhat toned down when compared to his classics like “The Wild Bunch” and “Straw Dogs”, proving just further that this is Peckinpah light. Hell, it doesn’t even end like a Peckinpah movie should.
But anyway, maybe that is also why “The Getaway” is one of his most successful films financially. And this more crowd-pleasing vision is maybe a good way to access the works of Sam Peckinpah as well, although it’s still hard not to wonder what “The Getaway” would look like if Peckinpah had free reign on it. As it is “The Getaway” remains a great entry in to the genre, but doesn’t go far beyond that I’m afraid.
I guess that’s about all I have to say about “The Getaway”. I enjoyed the film very much, but was certainly not engaged on a more profound level as I was with “Straw Dogs” or “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia”. Still “The Getaway” stands as one of the quintessential “guy” films** and one of the best heist/action films of the 70’s.
* they also worked together for a short period on "The Cincinnati Kid", before Peckinpah was fired from the picture and replaced with Norman Jewison
** the film was written by another Hollywood filmmaker famous for his “tough guy” films - Walter Hill
Steve McQueen - Doc McCoy
Ali MacGraw -Carol McCoy
Ben Johnson - Jack Beynon
Al Lettieri - Rudy Butler
Sally Struthers - Fran Clinton
The Getaway on IMDb