Blackthorn

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Blackthorn

What if Butch Cassidy didn't die in a Bolivian ambush, and instead lived to be a mild-mannered old coot, amiably chasing peasant girls around a South American horse ranch? Spanish director Mateo Gil's sturdy, scenic Western posits that after several decades of quiet living south of the equator, the fabled bandit, now called Blackthorn (Shepard), finally decides to journey home to America. Barely a day into his travels, he's joined by a wayward vagabond (Noriega), with whom he conspires to thieve a magnate's fortune. Pursued by an army of soldiers, gunslingers and a gin-soaked nemesis (Rea), the old man is happy to be back in the saddle again---at least until the truth about his new partner comes to light.

Gil's alternative history gets one thing bang-on right: If Butch were to live into his senior days, he'd absolutely have to be played by Shepard. Wrinkled, leathery and densely carpeted in a salt-and-pepper beard, the 67-year-old playwright and actor still exudes intellectual mischief and hard-stare sex appeal; his self-styled ruggedness is a perfect match for an infamous gringo living incognito. It's his best screen work since The Right Stuff, and if Shepard's costars can't compete, it's because they don't even try---in fact, all other aspects of the film, from the feather-soft storytelling to the dutifully pretty cinematography, seem designed to recede around its star. When the legend exits, Blackthorn literally fades away.

Follow Eric Hynes on Twitter: @eshynes

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Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Friday October 7 2011
Duration: 98 mins

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