Movie Review: Blackthorn

By Russell Baillie

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In 'Blackthorn', Sam Shepard's Butch Cassidy has higher aims.  Photo / Supplied
In 'Blackthorn', Sam Shepard's Butch Cassidy has higher aims. Photo / Supplied

Sam Shepard is many things - playwright, author, actor and as he proves on the soundtrack to this, a mighty fine singer of prehistoric folk songs, which he can do while riding a horse and strumming a mandolin. He is, however, no Paul Newman.

And in this decades-later sequel, of sorts, to 1968 Western buddy comedy classic, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Shepard plays Cassidy.

No, the pair - as played by Newman and Robert Redford - apparently didn't die in a hail of Bolivian Army bullets. Cassidy survived to take up horse breeding and beard growing in the Bolivian high country

Until, that is, he is decides to end his exile and head home to the US. No sooner is he out the gate, he finds himself entwined with a Spanish desperado Eduardo (Noriega) who is on the run with a bag of money. Cue a posse or two in lukewarm pursuit across the Bolivian high plains and salt flats.

But sadly there's no bicycle riding to Bacharach tunes or river jumping from high cliffs.

And while Shepard makes an enigmatic grizzled geezer out of Cassidy - aka "Blackthorn" - this just takes any audience affection for the 1968 film and quickly wastes it.

It's an earnest plod of a story that forgets why the forbear was a classic - the combo of Newman-Redford chemistry and writer William Goldman's many funny lines - but then tries to replicate the earlier film in awful supposed flashback scenes.

In those, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (from Game of Thrones) plays a younger Cassidy despite looking more like Redford, while even his offsider's moustache (upon the face of Padraic Delaney) fails in its wearer's efforts to impersonate Sundance.

Sure, Shepard brings some mythic weight to his scenes, especially when he's staring down his rifle sights across all that impressively arid scenery.

But the film's Spanish creators, debuting director Mateo Gil and screenwriter Miguel Barros, just aren't up to the job of adding to the dual legend, that of the real Old West outlaw or character as played by Newman and seem to be having bit of bet each way. Having asked the what-if question about Cassidy surviving into his dotage, they simply can't sustain our interest with this lumbering answer.

True, this is proof of the veteran Shepard's charisma and multiple talents, but they are on display in a curio of a movie.

Stars: 2.5/5
Cast: Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea
Director: Mateo Gil
Rating: M (violence & offensive language)
Running time: 98 mins
Verdict: Butch Cassidy rides again, nowhere much

- NZ Herald

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