Sam Shepard in Blackthorn (2011)

The Old and the Restless

Having survived the massacre, Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard) has spent the past twenty years living as James Blackthorn in South America where he has kept horses on a ranch away from everyone except for the occasional female visitor. But as the years have passed so has the yearning grown to return to America and catch up with the son who only knows him as an Uncle who writes. But after selling his live stock Blackthorn has a run in with Eduardo (Eduardo Noriega), a thief who in trying to rob him but leaves them both with out a horse in the middle of nowhere. When Eduardo offers to split with him some money he has hidden in a cave the two join forces with Blackthorn reliving his past with a new partner.

It is always an interesting idea, making a movie about a legend but giving us the alternative story of what may have happened if they hadn't died. When it comes to western characters as in this case Butch Cassidy it provides a whole range of possibilities for character; from showing a man who has remorse to a man yearning for one last hit of excitement and recapturing their past. In fact if I felt the yearning to I am sure I could write a screenplay surrounding a "What if Butch Cassidy lived?" question, how good it would be is another matter.

Eduardo Noriega in Blackthorn (2011)

Unfortunately the possibility for character depth is lacking from "Blackthorn" which soon settles down to a traditional western but one done with a greater visual style than you see in many a western. From the use of the sun coming up to silhouette characters riding off in to the distance to wide angle shots to take in the landscape it is a beautiful movie from an artistic bent. In fact I will go further and say some of the camera work and locations are the best I have seen in modern made western for a long time.

But as I said there is no depth and so after a set up which sees Blackthorn and Eduardo together it becomes a traditional type of western about the action and character interaction which sadly isn't the most enthralling, neither are the flashbacks. It is fortunate for director Mateo Gil that he cast Sam Shepard as he manages to bring some visual character to the role with the squint of a man who has spent a life staring in to the sun, waiting for the silhouette of trouble to appear on the horizon. But beyond what Shepard brings to the role and some only okay events "Blackthorn" misses out on an opportunity to deliver so much more.

What this all boils down to is that "Blackthorn" is an entertaining movie thanks to the combination of Sam Shepard and a great look. But with the idea offering up so much opportunity for depth the lack of it makes it only a good movie.