Mateo Gil's "Blackthorn" ranks as a rugged, entertaining western set in South America that qualifies as a kind of sort a sequel to George Roy Hill's exceptional horse opera "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." This visually stunning oater lensed on location in scenic Bolivia by "The Others" lenser Lucio Godoy should be seen on the biggest screen possibly because the film reeks of grandeur. Not only are the towering mountains awe-inspiring but also the salt flats look terrific. Basically, this western concerns an older but wiser Butch Cassidy after the Sundance Kid has died and their girlfriend Etta Place has left the country. Interestingly, Gil explores our legendary heroes after they have just arrived in Bolivia, with Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau cast as the younger Butch, and then later with Sam Shepard playing the older Butch. Although the actors bear little resemblance to Paul Newman and Robert Redford, the narrative—relying less on humor—channels the classic western. No, "Blackthorn" isn't as good as the brilliant "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," but it makes a worthy companion piece. As the film opens, our venerable outlaw (Sam Shepard of "Country") is writing a letter to Etta Place (lovely Dominique McElligott of AMC's "Hell on Wheels") about his plans to leave Bolivia and return to America to live with his son. The flashbacks with the younger Butch (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau of "Black Hawk Down") show our heroes escaping the wrath of a Pinkerton agent, Mackinley (Stephen Rea of "The Crying Game"), and his posse. "Endless Night" scenarist Miguel Barros doesn't let the action bog down, and director Mateo Gil keep things suspenseful and surprising as our protagonist is sidetracked on his journey home when he crosses trails with a Madrid-born bandit Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega of "Sweetwater") and finds himself riding the owlhoot trail once again. The settings are atmospheric, and the time period is the late 1920s. Everybody believes that Butch has died, including the wily former Pinkerton agent McKinley, when our hero ties his fortune to Eduardo. Like "Butch Cassidy," "Blackthorn" takes place in some breathtaking scenery in craggy mountainsides and sprawling deserts. Posses of one kind or another assemble to pursue these two, and Butch—who calls himself James—takes a shine to Eduardo and they find themselves struggling to pursue those posses. Like the posse in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," the posses in "Blackthorn" don't know when to quit and they are determined to bring back our heroes dead or alive. Sam Shepard delivers a sympathetic performance of a fading outlaw who has to resume his own ways. In the flashback sequences, Pádraic Delaney makes a good Sundance. Unfortunately, he isn't as flamboyant as Robert Redford, but the two actors have enough charisma to make them memorable. Miraculously, they manage to escape the authorities, but Sundance catches a bullet that won't go away as the flee for parts unknown and eventually Butch must do the unthinkable to put him out of his misery. Most westerns that occur in the 20th century rarely encapsulate the wild spirit of the old West, but "Blackthorn" does, and anybody who craves a good shoot'em up will treasure this tale.
Action / Adventure / Western
Action / Adventure / Western
In Bolivia, Butch Cassidy (now calling himself James Blackthorn) pines for one last sight of home, an adventure that aligns him with a young robber and makes the duo a target for gangs and lawmen alike.
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April 16, 2019