Movie Review: Blackthorn (2011)
Butch Cassidy didn’t die! Both he and the Sundance Kid somehow made it out alive at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and escaped certain death at the hands of the Bolivian Army. Flash forward 20 years and Butch, now known as James Blackthorn (Sam Shepard), is still in Bolivia and living a quiet life breeding horses and enjoying the scenery. However, James knows it’s time to sell what he has and return home to the U.S. — he is not young anymore, heck; he is not even middle aged anymore and there are some people he wants to see back in America. But wouldn’t you just know it, now that James is trying to leave, local events unexpectedly descend upon him and he gets mired in a side quest of money and revenge.
Replacing Sundance Kid in Blackthorn is new sidekick Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega). Eduardo is a Spanish engineer who has stolen a huge sum of money from the regional mining magnate and has not only a large bounty on his head, but a posse of extremely irritated tough guys on his tail.
But what happened in the 20 years from when we last left Butch Cassidy and what happened to the Sundance Kid? The answers to these questions are slowly uncovered through the use of flashbacks in which we follow a young Butch (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Sundance (Padraic Delaney) first getting in trouble back in the U.S., making their escape to Argentina, and finally concluding in Bolivia where it somewhat unconvincingly tells how they got out of that tricky business that should have ended with them dead. Also in the flashbacks is a Pinkerton agent, McKinley (Stephen Rea), who chases the two bandits from the U.S. to South America.
The Blackthorn screenplay was written by Miguel Barros, his first fiction credit, and directed by Mateo Gil, known more for his writing (The Sea Inside, Open Your Eyes, Vanilla Sky), but could have been written and directed by the Bolivian Tourism Office. Shot in the picturesque South American country, the scenery should garner its own supporting actor credit. The camera lingers on high mountains, lush plains and valleys, winding rivers, and even barren salt flats. Frequently, James will sit down, stare at his surroundings, and mention to whomever he is with at the time just how gorgeous Bolivia is.
According to this script, there was no need for a Butch Cassidy sequel right after the 1908 events with the Bolivian Army because Butch didn’t do anything except disappear into the countryside and settle down. Now the camera is back on him because of this Eduardo business. However, the whole mess is so blatantly contrived and small minded that the plot is just an excuse to bring back a very famous character. Point: The sequel isn’t needed now either.
The movie has, however, briefly revived the moribund careers of Sam Shepard and Stephen Rea, two talented actors who do not receive very many scripts anymore. Shepard has popped up in very small roles fairly recently in Fair Game and Brothers while Rea was more or less last seen in V for Vendetta and a 2009 episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. It is a shame that not only does the Blackthorn script severely let down its predecessor, but when two aging actors finally get the chance to show they still have what it takes to carry a film, they are saddled with this one.