BLACKTHORN – The Review
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID ends with the two outlaws killed in a standoff with the Bolivian military in 1908, but there’s a long-running rumor that Cassidy survived the shootout and the new western BLACKTHORN is premised on that speculation. BLACKTHORN takes place in the late 1920’s and Cassidy (Sam Sheppard), now in his 60’s, is quietly living out his years as a horse breeder under the name James Blackthorn with his Mexican wife in a remote Bolivian village. Tired of his long exile from the US and hoping to see his family again before he dies, Cassidy withdraws his life savings and sets out on horseback for the long journey home. But an unexpected encounter with charismatic criminal-on-the-run Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega) derails his plans and results in the loss of his savings. When Apodaca claims to have stashed a fortune stolen from a greedy railroad baron, Butch is thrust into one last adventure, the likes of which he hasn’t experienced since those glory days with the Sundance Kid.
BLACKTHORN is a rewarding film experience for those willing to saddle up for an unconventional ride. Director Mateo Gil and writer Miguel Barrosa have made an exciting and bloody, if modest western not so much interested in holding up its hero’s as legend as presenting a melancholy portrait of his later career. There’s a good story told here though, a buddy road film full of plot twists, humor, and betrayals. BLACKTHORN repeatedly returns in flashback to the past, when a younger Cassidy (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is teamed up with Sundance (Padraic Delaney) and this friendship parallels the later one between Butch and the shifty Apodaca. Whether he’s galloping across the blazing desert, hiding in caves, or being targeted by mysterious Mexican posses, it’s hard not to be charmed by the warm, lived-in central performance by Sam Sheppard. . It’s a big meaty role for Sheppard, one of the most unstudied, natural actors in the biz who makes Cassidy so proud, so vulnerable, and such a noble rascal that the whole movie becomes just a little more complex because he’s in it. BLACKTHORN is a nicely paced mix of emotion and action. It’s based, to some degree, on truth but that doesn’t matter half as much as that Sheppard bases his performance on how he sees the truth of Butch Cassidy. BLACKTHORN is a terrific western and is highly recommended.
4 1/2 of 5 Stars
BLACKTHORN Opens in St. Louis today (October 21st) at Landmark’s Tivoli Theater