Blackthorn is directed by Mateo Gil and written by Miguel Barros. It stars Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea, Magaly Solier, Nikolaj Costsr-Waldau, Padraic Delaney and Dominique McElligott. Music is by Lucio Godoy and cinematography by Juan Ruiz Anchia.
It was believed that Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid both perished at the hands of the Bolivian army in 1908. Not so, for here is Butch Cassidy 20 years after the supposed event, alive and well and living in a secluded Bolivian village under the name James Blackthorn.
What a lovely idea, that of one of history's most famous outlaws actually living longer than history led us to believe. OK, it's a scratchy premise but it allows for a quite elegiac film as we follow an older and grizzled Cassidy on another adventure. That adventure sees him team up with mischievous Spaniard Eduardo Apodaca, the latter of which tries to rob Blackthorn/Cassidy and then offers to repay the old outlaw with the proceeds from some hidden loot stashed away from a robbery. They set off and sure enough there is a posse on their tail, meaning the pair have to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, something which puts the twinkle back in Cassidy's eyes. But not all is as it seems and with flash backs showing Butch and Sundance in their prime (Waldau as the young Cassidy is an inspired choice as per likeness to Shepard), aided by the feisty Etta Place, this is a fully rounded tale.
The film quite simply is unhurried and respectful to the art of story telling and is rich with a lead characterisation of considerable substance (Shepard is wonderful, really gets to the soul of the character). Oh it is punctured by the odd action scene, even some humour is in the mix, there's even time for machismo and romantic threads of worth, but this beats a melancholy heart and is All the better for it. It also happens to be one of the most gorgeously photographed Westerns of the modern era. Filmed primarily on location in Bolivia, the landscapes - be it the mountainous ranges or pin sharp salt flats - are sublime, God's wonderful Earth in all its glory expertly realised by Anchia, marking this out as an absolute Blu-ray essential for Western fans big into location photography. While Godoy's musical score is pitch perfect for the tonal flows in the narrative.
There's the odd cliché, Rea is a touch wasted and some may decry the simplicity of plot, but this is thoughtful and awash with the love of the Western genre. If only for Shepard and the photography then this is worth it for Western fans, as it is it also calls out to those who like some emotional reflection in their Oaters. 8/10