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"Blackthorn" - Good, but not great
on October 21, 2011
One reviewer's blurb said: "A classic old-fashioned western, every bit as good as 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'." It is neither. It should not even be compared to that film since it's only marginally in the same genre.
There are many good things about "Blackthorn" -- Sam Shepard's acting, for instance. The scenery is also excellent, albeit dully colored. I would have chosen a better film stock. Most of the colors seemed drab and lifeless to me. That may be partially due to the generally overcast skies that were the norm in Bolivia - at least that appears to be the case when they were shooting this film. But I believe that either the film they used did not reproduce the colors well or there was something wrong with the projector at the theater in which I saw it. Yet even with the lack of color saturation, there were some spectacular vistas as our hero made his way across the country. The director made excellent use of the widescreen format.
Another interesting aspect of the movie was the back-story - the flashbacks to the early 1900's with Butch, Sundance, and Etta Place. Those flashbacks provide a possible explanation as to how Butch and Sundance survived the infamous gun battle with the Bolivian army and why they split up. Enough said about that. (No spoilers here.)
I will mention that, historically speaking, while there is evidence of two American bandits being killed in a gun battle with a few soldiers (not an entire army) and a couple others from a small Bolivian town, later DNA evidence ruled out those bandits as being either Butch or Sundance. Also, many people have stated they met with and/or knew Robert Leroy Parker (aka Butch Cassidy) after he moved back to the U.S. (using an alias, of course).
But the story and the characters were rather bleak and left me feeling as cold as Blackthorn working his way through the high mountains of Bolivia with the young criminal who owed him money.
I would recommend this film with reservations. Don't go in expecting a fast-moving story with colorful, genial characters. It is tense and somber.