Although I had no idea of what to expect from Scarecrow, Al Pacino is one of my favourite actors and so pairing him with two time Academy Award winner Gene Hackman was a perfect idea.
Scarecrow is interesting because it has two of the most critically acclaimed actors of the 1970's paired up and put into a film where their characters are simply drifters moving from place to place in the context of a road movie. Instead of being put into the roles of serious dramatic grit, the characters in Scarecrow are a lot more natural and simple which means that it requires the actors to put their natural charm into the parts. It presents a great opportunity to the actors and comes from a time in society when the counterculture movement was beginning to bloom. Scarecrow has the cultural relevance of being a story about people looking out for each other and the value of friendship. To put is simply, Scarecrow is built on a simple story and a script full of intelligent dialogue which gives it a lot of spirit, and while the story is not consistently interesting because it is unpredictable and doesn't really know exactly where it is going, it is still an entertaining film.
Scarecrow came from a much simpler time in cinema, the age of films such as Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces which were about the sad nature of the world and the directionless people within it. Films that were not about all that much but had serious relevance to the contemporary culture of the time. If you understand that when going in to see Scarecrow then you will understand just what its importance is all about, but otherwise you could find it to be slow or even pointless. I mean even I was able to feel the slow pace of the film over its running time, but it doesn't mean I wasn't able to enjoy the film for its realistic drama which wasn't melodramatic. The drama of the story in Scarecrow is allowed to develop at its own pace which is a more organic rate, and Jerry Schatzberg gives the film the necessary kind of restrained direction that it needed. While it could even be a little too restrained at times which allows the story to scatter a little bit, it is still a simple film which is enjoyable for that kind of purpose as well because the ambiguity that comes with audiences asking "what comes next?" is essentially key to a road movie. It keeps viewers constantly interested, and so the mix of character focus and counterculture themes in Scarecrow makes it an interesting film on a fairly consistent basis.
But the thing that Scarecrow mainly revolves around is the talents of its cast because everything is focused on ensuring that both Al Pacino and Gene Hackman are supplied material that is up to their calibre of acting. Luckily enough, they have no problem achieving that and they prove to be able to keep the energy and drama of the film flowing from start to finish.
Al Pacino's performance in Scarecrow is one of his most honest to date. His performance dominates the screen, and without even having to sink into a complicated character he just takes the role by storm because he is so naturally good at it. The talent that Al Pacino puts into his leading performance in Scarecrow is not one that he has to think too much about because it seems just like him if he was in the same situation that his character Francis Lionel "Lion" Delbuchi faces. Al Pacino's performance is a seriously organic one which emphasises all of his talents as an actor without giving him a high profile character, and so it is a wonderful thing to see. When you contrast his role in Scarecrow to the performances he has given in films such as The Godfather, Scarface or Scent of a Woman, you can see a large difference between them based on how they are written. But the role in Scarecrow didn't even need to be written since Al Pacino was able to supply so much to it without trouble. Al Pacino's leading performance in Scarecrowe is just excellent and it makes the film worth a viewing standalone.
Gene Hackman's performance is almost as enthralling. Similarly, Gene Hackman faces his role in Scarecrow as the character Max Millan with his own natural charm and charisma as an actor. And in doing that he manages to capture both a gritty edge for the man and a certain sense of charm which makes him funny at times. But above all the important thing is that he makes the character a compelling one by giving audiences the ability to sympathise with his decisions and understand everything about him. Gene Hackman's effort in Scarecrow is very admirable because it is one where he gets deeply involved in the character and delivers his lines with a powerful honesty, and he proves himself fearless and entertaining in the role.
The chemistry between the two actors is excellent as well because it seems like the way that their characters gain education from each other is mirrored by the benefit they get from working together as actors on Scarecrow. The chemistry they share has a feel of true friendship to it that is so powerful that it almost becomes like brotherhood, so pairing them together is a benefit to Scarecrow and the world in so many ways.
So while Scarecrow is a slow film which doesn't always know where to go or what to do, it is consistently entertaining thanks to its cultural relevance as a cinematic piece of counterculture and due to the skilful leading performances of both Academy Award winners Al Pacino and Gene Hackman who work to make it a memorable film which pays off thanks to both their standalone efforts and the kind of chemistry they achieve in the process, and it is all achieved under the relaxed and skillful direction of Jerry Schatzberg.