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Laramie Movie Scope: Blackthorn

A dandy international western film

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 23, 2011 -- Unlike most westerns, this is an international production, filmed in Bolivia and written and directed by Spaniards, featuring an international cast, while maintaining the true spirit of film westerns in splendid fashion. This is a dandy western (with dialog mostly in English) with sharply drawn characters, drama, comedy and some good action scenes too.

Picking up where “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” left off, we find Butch and a badly wounded Sundance (played by Padraic Delaney) presumed dead and escaping from a trap set by the Bolivian Army. Years later, Butch (played in later years by Sam Shepard of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) living on a small ranch in Bolivia, writing letters to his nephew (who could be his son) in America. Years have passed, everyone thinks he is dead. It should be safe to go back to the United States. He is living under the assumed name of James Blackthorn.

Of course, it's not that simple to get back to the states. While heading out, he is ambushed and loses all his money and his horse. In a twist of fate, he is promised his money back if he will help an inexperienced bandit, Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega) retrieve his loot. Eduardo is being pursued by a very determined posse. If successful, Butch will be money ahead on this bargain, but there is a lot of danger. The two men are outnumbered badly and they have no horses.

A friendship develops between Eduardo and Butch as the two endure ambushes and escapes and other adventures together. These adventures remind Butch of his early days in Wyoming and Bolivia. We see these memories in flashbacks with Butch being played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Etta Place being played by Dominique McElligott. In these flashbacks we see an old enemy, a Pinkerton Detective named Mackinley (played by Stephen Rea of “V For Vendetta”) who nearly catches the gang, but they escape with the help of Etta Place. Etta, who is pregnant with the child of either Sundance, or Butch, heads back to America to raise the child, leaving the two bandits in Bolivia.

In a last desperate attempt to flee the posse, Butch and Eduardo head out across a vast salt flat. With a couple of extra horses, they hope to outlast their pursuers and make it across the mountains to relative safety. The two split up, planning to meet again. An injured an exhausted Butch reaches a remote village, where he is found by none other than his old enemy, Mackinley, who is now retired. The two have a very unusual conversation in which Butch finds out he has been operating under a false set of assumptions. He is mistaken about his actions of the past few weeks.

The last scenes of the movie aren't really all that believable, but they are satisfying in a way that befits the moralistic nature of the western genre. There is betrayal and retribution galore for all of the main characters in a final confrontation. The story, and the characters, are both strange and familiar in this unfamiliar place. There is some nifty cinematography in the film, especially in one scene where a horse and rider disappear and reappear again. The acting is also very good, led by Sam Shepard. This is a worthy addition to the legend of Butch Cassidy. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2011 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)