The tale of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid has been one of much speculation in the past couple decades. Most presume the outlaw duo died in Bolivia in a showdown with authorities, most dramatically seen in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. And stories since have been told of one of them, or both, having survived this dramatic incident and having lived many years past their presumed deaths on the run from the law. Blackthorn follows Sam Shepard as an aging Butch on one last adventure as he tries to return home to the United States.
Cassidy (Shepard) in this fictional retelling of history has survived the shootout in Bolivia, choosing to live the remainder of his life under the name “Blackthorn” in a small Bolivian village. When a young criminal (Eduardo Noriega) offers him the chance to relive some of his glory days, Cassidy goes on one last adventure for the ages but without his longtime partner in crime Sundance.
One can see why this film didn’t get an expansion outside of a limited released in October of this year; gritty R-rated westerns have a hard time finding an audience. If a blockbuster like Cowboys & Aliens couldn’t gather a large audience with a handful of recognizable stars and the director of Iron Man then one can see why Magnolia never rolled out this film in anything besides a limited release. This is a shame, really, because it’s a good genre film for a genre that has had a hard time finding its way to quality en masse.
It’s interesting to see what Mateo Gil and Miguel Barros have done with the mythos behind Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Butch is by necessity an old man, the light at the end closer than the light at the beginning, and as such we get to see the outlaw as an old man looking back at his life. With flashbacks of his life on the run, as well as his life as a criminal, we see Butch as a man all alone.
In many ways it’s the same motif that Michael Mann used at the end of Public Enemies with John Dillinger; Butch is the last of his kind, the outlaw of the west that Dillinger was as a bank robbing criminal. This is the man looking back and knowing that everyone he was associated with or loved is dead or captured. He’s lived a life of violence and can never really escape it; even in Bolivia violence follows him everywhere he goes. It’s a bit haunting and Sam Shephard gives Butch the world-weariness that one imagines that Paul Newman’s Butch would’ve had after surviving the shootout with the Bolivians.
Eduardo may be a new partner but one imagines his flashbacks, which all occur with him, remind him of his younger days with Sundance. It makes for an interesting dynamic as Eduardo looks up to him as more of a role model than as a partner the way Sundance was. Butch treats him on occasion as both a partner and as his mentor; both roles make for an interesting juxtaposition for Shepard, who succeeds as much as one can in a genre film.
And that’s the problem: it doesn’t do much outside the confines of the genre. It’s an interesting film and gives us a look into what Butch Cassidy could’ve been like after years in hiding, years after his “death,” but doesn’t extend past being a good genre film and become a good film overall. In an era where the western is more or less dead, it’s a nice film for fans of the tales of the cowboy but not much else.
There are Deleted Scenes as well as the film’s Theatrical Trailer are included.
Short Films by Director Mateo Gil give you an insight into his directorial style beyond the film.
HD Net has a look at the film as well as a fairly standard Making of piece is included.
Blackthorn is a solid film with a solid DVD but nothing more.
Magnolia presents Blackthorn . Directed by Mateo Gil. Starring Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega. Written by Miguel Barros. Running time: 102 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: December 20, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Sam Shepard