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Blackthorn - DVD Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

ATTEMPTING a sequel to one of the best films, let alone Westerns, of all time was always going to be an ambitious undertaking yet while Spanish director Mateo Gil’s Blackthorn is by no means a classic, it’s an intriguing, thoughtful and well acted film in its own right.

An imaginary follow-up to Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, the film takes a look at what might have become of the two outlaws had they not been killed in a standoff with the Bolivian military in 1908… a fate that is widely accepted but, according to some, which remains unsubstantiated.

It unfolds as Butch Cassidy, now an elderly man (played by Sam Shepard) quietly living out his years under the name James Blackthorn in a secluded Bolivian village, determines to end his self-imposed exile and return to the US in the hope of seeing his family again before he dies.

However, when an unexpected encounter with an ambitious young criminal (Eduardo Noriega) derails his plans, he is thrust into one last adventure, the likes of which he hasn’t experienced since his glory days with the Sundance Kid.

The union sees him once again being pursued across country by a bunch of lawmen, prompting him to reflect [via flashbacks involving Game of Thrones‘ Nicolaj Coster-Waldau as his younger self] on his early days in Bolivia and what became of his one-time riding partner, The Sundance Kid.

Gil is perhaps best known as the Goya winning screenplay writer for Alejandro Amenabar (Open Your Eyes, The Sea Inside) but with Blackthorn he proves himself a keen eye behind the camera himself.

The film was shot on location in the breathtaking Bolivian landscape, believed to be Cassidy’s final resting place, and certainly makes the most of this stunning backdrop to lend this Western an identity of its own (courtesy of A Ruiz Anchia’s beautiful cinematography).

But he also draws a terrific performance from Shepard, gracefully recalling the charisma of Newman’s iconic take on the outlaw as well as a sense of regret at how his life has turned out and a rekindled sense of adventure that enables him to roll back the years (albeit at cost).

There’s good support, too, from Noriega and the likes of Coster-Waldau and Stephen Rae, as a long-term adversary.

Gil also populates proceedings with some nicely handled set pieces as well as some nice nods to 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the odd surprise story-wise, resulting in a conclusion that’s both thought-provoking and strangely poignant.

Hence, while always existing in the shadow of its illustrious predecessor, Blackthorn still has enough to recommend it to make this a must-see for anyone who loved that original, as well as any fans of Westerns.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 102mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: June 4, 2012