A scene from Blackthorn
It’s about the famous outlaw Butch Cassidy, widely believed to have been killed (along with the Sundance Kid) by the Bolivian military. But in this imagined version of his life, Cassidy lived quietly for 25 more years in a remote Bolivian village, under the name James Blackthorn, before yearning to return home to America and reunite with his family.
Cassidy is played beautifully by Sam Shepard - craggy, handsome, weather-beaten and now in his late 60s. Shepard’s something of a renaissance man (he’s a Pulitzer prize-winning playwright) but he’s always been an effective presence in films, especially when required to play a military type or ride a horse. (He was Oscar-nominated for playing ace test pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff in 1983.) Click the image, below, to watch the trailer.
Blackthorn is a gorgeous-looking Spanish production with mostly English dialogue, largely shot 15,000 feet above sea level in Bolivia, which provides stunning, unique landscapes. Cassidy falls in with a young outlaw who is not all he seems (Eduardo Noriega) for one last escapade before crossing the border home.
It’s a very different proposition from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), in which Paul Newman memorably played Butch. No raindrops keep falling on anyone’s head here. But a handful of scenes in Blackthorn play with our memories of that earlier film; this is an engaging western, and the role of Butch fits Shepard like a glove.
David Gritten has been Saga Magazine’s film critic for eight years. He also regularly writes about and reviews films for the Daily Telegraph. He has lived and worked in London and Los Angeles, and has visited film sets all over the world. He edited Halliwell’s film guide for two years (2008-09). He feels privileged to have met and interviewed his four major film heroes: Fred Astaire, Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese and Pedro Almodóvar.
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