Thornton's film of Cormac McCarthy's novel begins with two West Texas teenagers lying under the stars, pondering mortality and itching to cross the border for high adventure. And that's just what they do, cutting out on horseback, but making the fatal acquaintance of a saddle-proud urchin, name of Blevins, along the way. Over the Rio Grande lies danger, love, prison, death. McCarthy's book may be knee-deep in purple sage, but his literary machismo fits square in the American canon and exerts a grievous romantic pull. Thornton's treatment is reverential - as far as can be determined from what is evidently the bare bones of the director's preferred three-hour cut. Ted Tally's adaptation doesn't omit any significant scenes, while retaining a good deal of the already spare dialogue. The movie is near perfectly cast. If Damon is a mite mature for John Grady Cole, Thomas is a shrewd choice for his sidekick Rawlins, while Black (Blevins), Cruz, Dern, Shepard and Blades all look and sound just so. Mostly simple and unaffected, the direction makes no attempt to translate McCarthy's dense poetic prose except in the loveliness of the light. Yet the film feels all wrong. The relentless, brisk linearity of the cutting doesn't allow for any breathing space; there's no punctuation, no modulation or breadth. Even the crucial sequence where Grady and Rawlins break 16 mustangs in four days feels squeezed. And the romance with Cruz is faithful to the weakest passages in the book. The result is both bathetic and brokenbacked, and for once that extra hour might have helped.