After seeing this movie screening, a classmate remarked, "I guess it proves even cockroaches have souls". This X-rated film, made in 1969 shows us more about New York's seamier side than many of us may want to know. Like Los Angeles, New York is a haven for those who can't make it anywhere else. They come to the big city with high hopes, and leave, their dreams shattered, and their future as up in the air as when they arrived.
It is hard to like any of the major characters in the film. One has some feelings for the delusions of Joe Buck, the "cowboy" of the title, who hopes to score big with rich women. He is certainly handsome enough. (One has only to see Jon Voigt today to see how time is often unkind to young handsome men and beautiful women). And, what is one to make of Ratso Rizzo, for which Dustin Hoffman won an Academy Award. He is dying of tuberculosis. Still, he always finds a new con, another hustle, whereby he can cadge a few bucks from the nanve and unsuspecting. The $20 he takes as a "fee" from Joe creates a sort of male bonding that is unusual in film, if not in real life: Two of life's losers holding on to that tiny raft of hope and expectations. If there is one message that comes across loud and clear it is that big cities swallow up the poor and those unable to sustain a decent life. They are overlooked, passed-by, and forgotten. They become like the daily garbage that is tossed out, waiting to be picked up and taken to some unknown destination, out of sight.
While we don't necessarily "like" or even feel sorry for the two main characters, we do somehow hope that they manage to get out of this city that has dumped on them time and time again. Florida is the destination, perhaps for no other reason than eternal sunshine and warmth of climate, if not of human kindness.
One can easily question why Joe Buck. Nanve as he may be about big city life, doesn't see through the machinations