Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard) didn’t die at the hands of the Bolivian army – he is very much alive and has been living in the Bolivian mountains for the past 20 years. Cassidy figures that as an old-man it’s now time to return home. Along the way he encounters a Spaniard (Eduardo Noriega) on the run from a band of what appear to be bounty-hunters. Cassidy’s memories of better times with his old friends are ignited and once again he is drawn into a battle for his life…..
Sam Shepard gives an authoritative – to the point of dominating – performance as the gravelly-voiced “James Blackthorn” aka “Butch Cassidy”. Stephen Rea is the other stand-out role for me; he plays MacKinley, a man who spent his life chasing Cassidy and who certainly never accepted the official story of his death. Time and the bottle have not been kind to MacKinley – by now a broken man in an isolated South American village – but the scene where he walks into the Doctor’s office to find the sickly Cassidy on a stretcher is priceless and Rea plays it magnificently. What’s even better is that despite his hate for the man, MacKinley realises the ridiculousness of their situation – it seems both are just old men trapped in Bolivia by their actions of twenty years ago…
There are some decent plot devices and ‘twists’ which keep the story interesting but it’s really the South American landscape, Shepard and Rea that make this movie for me. Moreover, some of these plot details will be of great interest to anyone with a knowledge of the Butch and Sundance legend, providing a slightly different take on their relationship with each other and Etta.
Technically, “Blackthorn” is mighty impressive. The film looks superb on screen and the cinematography of the Bolivian mountains and valleys comes close to enchanting at times. In addition, the camerawork during a ‘chase’ sequence across what seems like hundreds of miles of salt-flats is very ‘flash’.
The editing technique employed throughout is very effective – with the camera cutting away and back again at key moments – and most noticeable during the shoot-out sequences. This isn’t an excessively violent western but the action scenes are done very well with the best of the bunch being the shocking mini-massacre at Cassidy’s ranch.
A lot of people don’t like Westerns, but this is worth a try even if you scoff at the sight of a John Ford movie or a Clint Eastwood spaghetti shoot-out. This is more a about a man, driven by a set of morals left behind by the rest of the world, trying to put the past right; and as such, could have been set in any time period. Director Mateo Gil is brave to set such a theme in the style of the Western in this day and age, but pulls it off brilliantly.
I’d recommend this one to you all and if this is anything to go by, we’ll be hearing of Mateo Gil a lot more frequently in future.
hotdog rating: 8/10