21 October 2011

Blackthorn (aka Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid II)

I love westerns. They are few and far between. Lately, they have been worth the wait. Each of the last few years has had a decent entry into this dying genre. Blackthorn is the latest theatrical release, but it pales in comparison to other recent movies such as 3:10 to Yuma, Appaloosa, and True Grit.

Blackthorn tells the fictional story of what happened to Butch Cassidy after he faked his own death against the Bolivian Police in the shootout famously portrayed at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. There are conspiracy theories supporting the idea that he did not die in the gunfight. This concept was explored in Young Guns II, with the possible survival of Billy the Kid.

Blackthorn picks up in Bolivia in 1927, 19 years after the shootout. Butch Cassidy, now using the name James Blackthorn (Sam Shepard), is a farmer and horse breeder. Blackthorn decides it is time for him to return to the U.S. of A. and meet Ryan, who is the child of either Cassidy or Sundance, and a woman that rode with them as an outlaw, Etta Place (Dominique McElligot).

As Blackthorn makes preparations to leave South America and return the States, he comes across a Spaniard mining engineer, Eduardo (Eduardo Noriega). Eduardo mistakenly thinks that Blackthorn is chasing him, and accidentally scares off Blackthorn’s horse. Unfortunately, all of Blackthorn’s money was on the horse. Eduardo then explains that he has stolen money from a wealthy mine owner, and for Blackthorn’s help, he will split the money fifty-fifty, coming out to about $25,000 each. Since his money rode off into the sunset, Blackthorn agrees to help Eduardo retrieve his money, and cross the border into America. Hot on their heels rides a posse of bounty hunters.

Throughout the film, flashbacks tell the story of what happened to young Sundance (Padraic Delaney) and Butch (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) after heading to South America in 1907. These flashbacks are really the only aspect that this film has going for it. It is no secret to the viewers that Blackthorn is Butch Cassidy, but they withhold that information from the rest of the characters until very late in the story. This scene is one of the best scenes in the film. An old Pinkerton (Stephen Rea) that chased Cassidy and Sundance is summoned by a doctor to identify Blackthorn as Cassidy. The interaction between the two aged men is some of the only touching dialog and acting in the entire film.

The biggest downfall of Blackthorn is its feel. It feels like a TNT Original movie made back in the late nineties similar to Dollar for the Dead and Purgatory. It does not feel like a theatrical release. The acting is what you would expect from a TV movie. The directing is what you would expect from a TV movie. This is Mateo Gil’s second feature-length, non-TV movie. This is Miguel Barros’s first feature length screenplay. Sam Shepard’s acting feels over the top and forced at times. Eduardo Noriega’s acting feels like he came off the set of a Telemundo soap opera.

I was hoping for a good old fashioned western. What I got was a glorified TV movie that will be forgotten before it even opens. If I had recorded Blackthorn on my DVR off of TNT, and watched in the comfort of my own home, I think I would have enjoyed it. Sadly, I saw this in theaters. I am not saying that Blackthorn is necessarily a bad movie, it’s just not a great one by any stretch of the imagnation. It will most likely be dead on arrival. It seems I will just have to wait until next year’s Django Unchained by Tarantino for a decent western.

RATING: 4/10

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