Director: Mateo Gill
Cast: Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea
Running Time: 102 mins
Ever wondered what happened to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? No doubt many romantics have pondered the potential glorious escape of the charismatic antiheroes. Writer Miguel Barros is of such an ilk, and sees Cassidy as a homely horse rearer living out a simple existence in the Bolivian sticks under the name James Blackthorn.
Upon hearing of the death of Etta Place, the mother of Sundance’s child Ryan, Blackthorn begins making plans to return to the U.S.. Before he can get that far however, he’s mistakenly assaulted by Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega), a Spanish engineer on the run from a posse of Bolivian hitmen. In exchange for his help, Eduardo offers Blackthorn a cut of the $50,000 he has hidden nearby. Despite the looming threat of the seemingly unstoppable gang on the Spaniard’s tail, the glint of past bounties is still dormant inside Blackthorn and the old bandit can’t resist.
Complimenting the well thought out script is an understated performance from Sam Shepard, who makes for an entirely believable Butch Cassidy. The aged Butch is just as hard and sullen as you want him to be. He remains impenetrable, impossible to befriend despite the efforts of Eduardo. Plus, he spits, tracks people via horse manure, and is full of the sagely nuggets of wisdom you’d would expect from the world weary bandit.
The only real lulls in Blackthorn are the gratuitous flashbacks. They feature a young Butch, somewhat confusingly played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), whose wavy blonde locks would seem more suited to the role of the young Sundance Kid. Instead that role goes to Padraig Delaney (The Wind that Shakes the Barley) who can certainly act but falls a little short of believable. Surprisingly, Delaney isn’t the only Irish actor to cross the screen. The consistently brilliant Stephen Rea delivers a noteworthy performance as Cassidy and Sundance’s ex-pursuer turned pasty drunkard, Detective Mackinley. His scenes with Shepard are downright poignant and contain some of the best dialogue in the film.
The action scenes are sparse but what they lack in frequency they more than make up for in intensity. There’s no frills, just the slow panic of close-quarters gun fire. The climactic shoot out on the Uyuni salt flats is particularly enthralling, perhaps due to the cinematography which is stunning throughout. Shot on location in Bolivia, Blackthorn simply looks amazing.
Blackthorn is a gruff, rusty bucket western that will please any fans of the genre. Rea is engrossing throughout, as is Shepard who’s clearly at home in the role of James Blackthorn. Match that with the arresting cinematography and the grizzly world of Bolivian plateaus, and you’ve got a solid piece of cinema. If nothing else it will give you a hankering to revisit the Paul Newman, Robert Redford classic from 1969.