“The Getaway” was the film that turned me on to McQueen and introduced me to a new form of coolness, McQueen, who was a bad-ass as an action star as much he was an actor. Steve McQueen is just about larger than life in anything he was in, and with “The Getaway” he manages to elevate himself above the crime thriller, and helps Ali McGraw become his ultimate assailant in crime.
Directed by the great Sam Peckinpah, McQueen plays Doc McCoy, a man whose just been released from jail and is on parole. He’s confronted by a sheriff who demands he rob another bank, but has no intention on cutting him in on the money, nor does he intend on letting him get off scot free, neither does McCoy’s partner who is on his tail with a young couple he’s taken hostage, but McCoy isn’t going down so easily. Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw are immortal as two Bonnie and Clyde-esque fugitives from the law that are forced to engage in another heist. In usual fashion, Doc not only intends to do the job, but also intends on keeping the money and getting away with the crime.
Teamed with his girlfriend played by McGraw, the two eventually evade an assassination attempt by a member of the group and they head on the run from the authorities. If there’s two films from McQueen that should serve as an introduction to the man, there’s “The Cincinnati Kid,” and “The Getaway,” as McQueen manages to convey much of his charisma and dead pan humor, all the while attempting to keep his money by his side. The relationship between Doc and McGraw’s character Carol is often interesting and complex as Doc calls upon Carol to get him out of jams by any means necessary, and yet shows little respect toward her. This leads to rather difficult conflicts as Carol is a woman always on the verge of turning on Doc, while Doc desperately tries to keep her at arm’s length.
The smack attack by Doc on Carol after she murders a gangster who attempts to kill Doc is a perfect summation of their dynamic. He holds so little respect toward her that he doles out physical punishment, while Carol attempts to fight back assuming she was merely helping their dilemma. Though McQueen is excellent as Doc, he’s a man constantly in over his head, trying to control his environment, and is doomed to breaking the law. That’s apparent especially during a scene where his money is stolen by a curious train passenger, forcing him to inflict brutal force on them. Like any Peckinpah film, there are plenty of dazzling shoot outs to watch for, especially the climax which brings about a classic cross fire battle between McQueen and a group of armed officers in a crowded hotel. “The Getaway” is a top notch crime thriller with a fantastic turn by McQueen and it’s still the best action movie I’ve ever seen.