By Rich Cline
Plaintive and perhaps too slow-moving for mainstream audiences, this finely made Western cycles through a rather long, complex narrative. But it's thoroughly involving, with terrific characters and an engaging emotional punch.
It turns out that Butch Cassidy didn't die in a hail of gunfire in 1908 Bolivia after all. Now calling himself James Blackthorn (Shepard), he's still living there 20 years later with his girlfriend Yana (Solier). But after he decides to return home, he's waylaid by Eduardo (Noriega), a city-slicker who has embezzled thousands from a brutal businessman. Their ensuing adventures spark memories of Blackthorn's days as a young outlaw (Coster-Waldau in flashbacks) with the Sundance Kid (Delaney) and Etta Place (McElligott), chased to South America by the dogged lawman McKinley (Rea).
The film is shot in a dusty Western style, although director Gil never indulges in flashy action or post-modern cynicism. He lets the story play out in low-key, gritty ways that echo Blackthorn's gruff, level-headed approach to each situation. He also beautifully captures the Bolivian landscapes and culture. Gorgeously shot by Juan Ruiz Anchia, the film expertly places its increasingly likeable characters in a series of striking locations, from the altiplano to what an endless salt flat.
Into these settings, Shepard brings considerable charm, gently developing a lively chemistry with Noriega that twists and turns as the plot progresses.
Despite Eduardo's cocky self-assurance, Blackthorn is in control of every messy situation they find themselves in. And Shepard adds an underlying pathos as Blackthorn thinks about his past and his desire to travel to San Francisco to see the son he's never met. So its a joy to watch him rediscover the adrenaline rush of fighting for his life.
After years spent considering himself just counting out the days he has left, Blackthorn not only finds the will to live, but also realises that he's not washed-up yet. Meanwhile, Eduardo struggles to find the strength to finish what he started. But there are surprises in store for both of them. And these themes make this film thoroughly watchable as both men tenaciously persevere against the odds to find some sort of redemption. Even if that might mean dying a noble death.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 1st July 2011
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Production compaines: Quickfire Films, Arcadia Motion Pictures, Noodles Production
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 54 Rotten: 18
Cast & Crew
Producer: Ibon Cormenzana, Andres Santana
Screenwriter: Miguel Barros