You gosh darn kids get off my lawn!

Theatrical Release Date: 10/14/2011
Director: Mateo Gil
Cast: Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Padraic Delaney, Magaly Solier, Stephen Rea, Dominique McElligott
Rated: R for violence and language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 38 minutes


Is it a really large horse of a really small house?

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Their exploits, with or without the Wild Bunch, are the stuff of old west legend and a number of films have ingrained their names into popular American culture (Paul Newman and Robert Redford playing the duo in one of those films had something to do with it too).

As for the true history of things, it’s been generally accepted that the pair of outlaws met their fate at the hands of the Bolivian Army in 1908. Of course, there have been a few disputed accounts which place Butch’s demise up to 30 years later and back here in the good ‘ol United States.

Director Mateo Gil’s new film “Blackthorn” takes that approach, hypothesizing that Cassidy (played by Sam Shepard) used the confusion surrounding the confrontation with the army to disappear into obscurity. Taking on the name of James Blackthorn, he tries to find peace and create a quiet life, far removed from his days of robbing banks and staying one step ahead of the law.

As the film begins, Blackthorn is getting set to return to America and connect with the now almost grown son of his old partner. That journey is sidetracked after crossing paths with a Spanish engineer (Eduardo Noriega) on the run after stealing money from a local silver mine. This sets up possibly the last chapter in Cassidy’s adventures and the film moves back and forth between the early 1900s and 1927 to show the character’s journey from Butch Cassidy to James Blackthorn and back to Butch Cassidy once again.

As the famous outlaw, Shepard would seem to be ideal casting. His work has always exuded a quiet but strong resolve and it’s no surprise many of the reflective moments work well. However, it’s unclear what separates this performance from his others. It seemed less like watching Butch Cassidy and more like watching Sam Shepard – which is fun and interesting, just not quite the goal here.

Ironically, the actor playing the younger version of Cassidy (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) was completely believable and showed a wonderful presence on-screen. Gil decided just to use Stephen Rea for both ages of his role, as one of the men hunting down Butch & Sundance, and it’s almost a shame they didn’t try this with Coster-Waldau. Of course, the complaint then would probably be poor aging make-up so maybe it’s a bit of a lose-lose (and I like to complain). As the Spaniard that instigates Cassidy’s return to elements of his old life, Noriega acquits himself well. Some of the more emotionally charged material rang a little hollow but his performance worked for the most part.

In some respects, the true star of the film is the Bolivian landscape. Shot on location, the majestic mountains, desolate salt flats, and lush valleys create quite striking imagery. Sadly, there’s nothing special about the cinematography but even your average camcorder would be hard pressed not to convey the wonder of many of the locales.

The pacing made the 98 minutes feel more like 120-plus and it won’t be a film that site proudly on your DVD shelf in the future. But for fans of the genre and/or those interested in Butch Casidy, there’s enough here to keep you happy. “Blackthorn” is a perfectly competent Western and it gets a 3 out of 5.

3 out of 5