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Blackthorn

Blackthorn

Released 13 April 2012
Director Mateo Gil
Starring




Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea, Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Magaly Solier, Dominique McElligott, Padraic Delaney
Writer(s) Miguel Barros
Producer(s) Ibón Cormenzana
Origin

Spain, United States, Bolivia, France
Running Time 102 minutes
Genre Western
Rating 15A
86

Blaze of glory.

The year is 1927, and rather than having been killed twenty years before in an ambush, Butch Cassidy is alive and living a quiet life breeding horses in the hills of Bolivia. He finally has the money saved to return to the US, but in true western fashion life has other plans for him. Pretty soon he is penniless and chasing a fortune while running for his life in the company of a smooth-talking Spanish thief.

Blackthorn is very much a re-imagining of the Butch Cassidy legend, rather than a sequel or follow on to the 1969 Paul Newman/Robert Redford film, but it does what it sets out to do with absolute precision. With its well-placed flashbacks to young Butch, Blackthorn sets itself up as its own unique story. While comparisons with other interpretations of this tale – and indeed westerns in general – are rife, Blackthorn goes a long way towards establishing itself as a captivating, thrilling and ultimately thought provoking film.

Every part of this magnificently shot film is beautifully crafted by director Mateo Gil, from the breathtaking scenery to the universally strong performances from everyone involved. Sam Shepard is a perfect fit as James Blackthorn/Butch Cassidy, and seems born to play the role. Elsewhere Stephen Rea chews some serious scenery as a drunken and old bounty hunter filled with rage and regret.

Blackthorn is a classic western in many ways, albeit one which is also steeped in the darkness of modernism. It harks back to traditional tropes, but never succumbs to cliché – and is far from simple black and white good guys verses bad guys. Indeed much of the plot bears similarities to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven – an old cowboy struggling with the onward march toward modernity has one last foray into his old way of life – and indeed most modern westerns seem to approach this theme one way or another. Blackthorn provides is a particularly effective and enjoyable example of the western genre in its modern form.

- Bernard O’Rourke