Blackthorn

 

Blackthorn

Written by Miguel Barros

Cinematography: Juan Ruiz Anchiá
Music: Lucio Godoy
Editor: David Gallart

Costume Designer: Clara Bilbao

Art Director: Juan Pedro de Gaspar

Produced by Andrés Santana & Ibon Cormenzana

Directed by Mateo Gil

2010

 

Cast:

Sam Shepard

Eduardo Noriega

Stephen Rea

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Dominique McElligott

Padraic Delaney

Magaly Solier

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Nix Films, Eter Pictures & Manto Films AIE

Video: Magnolia Home Entertainment

 

Video:

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD50

Feature size: 30.22 GB

Bit Rate: Moderate-High (25-30 Mbps)

Runtime: 102 min.

Chapters: 11

Region: A

 

Audio:

English DTS-MA HD 5.1

 

Subtitles

English SDH & Spanish

 

Extras:

• Making of Blackthorn – in HD (10:30)

• 9 Deleted & Extended Scenes - in HD (22:20)

• HDNet: A Look at Blackthorn

• Trailers in HD

 

Presentation:

Blu-ray Amaray case:

Release Date: December 20, 2011


 

The Movie: 6

Much as I wanted and expected to embrace a movie starring that icon of the True West, Sam Shepard and shot in the previously untapped Bolivian vistas and deserts, I found myself falling off my horse and out of love, thanks largely to Miguel Barros’ mishmass script - at times lean and smart, at others bordering on juvenile.


The legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy is literally resurrected for this story.  Seems he and the Sundance Kid didn’t die in that shootout in San Vicente, Bolivia, immortalized by George Roy Hill and his larger than life actors Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  That final freeze frame wasn’t enough for Barros and director Mateo Gil.  They somehow escaped, going more or less their separate ways after a time.


   


The movie opens some twenty years later as Butch, who now calls himself James Blackthorn and has retired to ranching horses in the Bolivian outback, visited often enough by a lovely and proud native woman, Yana (Solier).  He is writing to the son he never met and has a hankerin’ to visit him in the States, now that his mother has died.  Shortly after he leaves town with the money he got for his horses and the savings from a bank he never robbed he is shot off his horse by some anonymous gunman whose horse lay dead a few yards away.  Butch’s horse runs off with all his worldly money, leaving him with a gentlemanly Spaniard (Noriega) who claims he is being chased by some mining cartel he robbed.  Butch agrees to help him find his buried money so he can get on with his trek.


   


There are many dutiful nods to the 1969 movie, some of it in the dialogue itself, especially in the several flashbacks to the days just before and after the San Vicente shootout, to the ménage à trois between Butch, Sundance and Etta Place (Coster-Waldau, Delaney & McElligott), to the Pinkerton agent whose duty it was to track the robbers to Bolivia (now a man named McKinley, played hauntingly by Stephen Rea), and most rivetingly by the posse of a dozen or so men who are now doggedly tracking the Spaniard.


As I write this, it reads better than it plays, Barros and Gil trying to iconize the icon.  They shouldn't have bothered.  I think the movie would have worked better if they left the legend out it and let the audience imagine Blackthorn might be Cassidy.  This would have inc=volved a considerable re-write as the flashbacks and the legend is so nervously interwoven.


    


Part of the difficulty is that we don’t know which Butch we’re looking at.  On balance it is Newman’s: smart, romantic and, in his way, ethical.  But Blackthorn has made a life raising horses and he gives up tracking his the moment the horse ran off.  It’s like he imagines the horse will run indefinitely and being in the desert, Butch needs to get on with his mission.  I guess I  didn’t buy it - and, of course, the entire plot requires that we do.  But the big brainsore comes when he is recognized in a town that brings another posse upon him.  That absolutely doesn’t wash if for no other reason than he and Sundance were already mislabeled when they were younger and more readily identified. The whole last part of the movie requires a suspension of belief that I could not muster.


   


The story and interplay between Noriega and Shepard is enough for a movie if Barros hadn’t become obsessed with Butch Cassidy.  But the real stars of this movie are the ones that don’t talk: the posse in pursuit of Noriega and the relentless and terrible beauty of a Bolivia we in the north have never seen.  In Blackthorn, however, it turns out to be a waste of talent.

 

Image: 9/9

The screen captures speak for themselves.  Colorful, Vivid, Sharp, Dynamic.


   

  

Audio & Music: 8/8

The surrounds are generally very subtly involved until the brief scene inside the mine where gunfire feels realistically in the entire room - or to put it another way: your room will turn into a cavern for just a moment.  Gil does not linger.  There are also some very nice subtle touches, like the sound of distant gunfire and the trickle of a stream.  Believably evocative.  The music alternates between folksy (e.g. Sam Hall) and a light Latin-American touch that supports mood and character perfectly.

 

Extras: 4

The ten-minute making-of feature, hosted by writer Barros and Director Gil, talk about what is known about the historical Butch Cassidy, the fancy that he and Sundance might not have been killed as is popularly believed, the importance of the Bolivian landscape (some good ideas here), the casting, and the various production issues.  All the important bits are there, though not in much detail.


   


is long on clips from the movie but does little to shed much light on even the most obvious questions, to shed more light on the locations to take one example.

 

Recommendation: 7

Despite that the screenplay is both too much and too little, I encourage you to see the film, especially if you have a sizable viewing space.  Rent first.


   

     

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

December 18, 2011




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