Butch Cassidy Rides Again 

As noted counterfactual Western novelist Eli Cash might say, "Well, everyone knows Butch Cassidy died at San Vincente, Bolivia. What this movie Blackthorn presupposes is ... maybe he didn't?" Certainly the idea of an alternate-universe sequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is an eccentric one. But that's what Mateo Gil's film is. And for a while, it's tough to find good reason to spend time with a graying, bearded Butch (Sam Shepard) as he putters around in South America and writes letters to a young man who may or may not be his son. But once Cassidy decides to cash out of his horse-breeding business and ride back to America, Blackthorn starts to look and feel like a good old-fashioned Western.

By now it's obvious that all Westerns are old-fashioned, nostalgia-ridden, and as melancholy as an autumn sunset. They've been that way for the past four decades. They are to serious moviegoers what carpenter's planes are to antique tool enthusiasts — admired, prized, and perhaps overvalued for their throwback charm and careful craftsmanship. These films trot out into theaters, linger for a while, and then trot back off into the sunset. In good hands, though, their well-worn pleasures still thrill.

Blackthorn's plot is built from a missing fortune, some flashbacks to better days, and Cassidy's growing friendship with a shady new partner (Eduardo Noriega) who follows him north. But once our heroes try to shake a dozen bounty hunters by riding across some endless salt flats, the movie finds its course and sticks to it.

The sequence on the salt flats, which is staged and framed as a suicidal ritual of pursuit and evasion, is as effective as any action sequence I've seen this year. Working with a jagged, blank canvas, Gil uses horse carcasses and human corpses to create tension and depth in his images as the endless chase across this infernally white landscape drags on. Like Jim Jarmusch's great Western Dead Man, the gunplay here is strangely exciting, because it's often clumsy and unpredictable.

Nothing else in the film is as spectacular as this sequence, but Cassidy shares plenty of folk wisdom along the way — about responsibility, about going out with a bang, and about independence.

Blackthorn deserves a hushed "yee-haw."

Opening Friday, December 2nd
Studio on the Square


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

    • The Dark Tower

      The adaptation of Stephen King’s epic meta fantasy is an epic let down
    • Memphis Film Prize 2017

      Ten Memphis Filmmakers Compete for a $10,000 Short Film Prize
    • The Big Sick

      The course of true love never did run smooth.


Intermission Impossible

The 2017-18 theatre season launches this week with "Ruined," and "9 to 5"

Music Blog

Trap Revival: Moneybagg Yo & the Second Coming of CMG

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Elvis Presley

From My Seat

The Sports World When Elvis Died

Music Blog

Gonerfest 14 lineup announced!


More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation