Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of finishing post and releasing my 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week 103: Blackthorn
Upon watching the trailer for Blackthorn recently, I asked myself, “How have I not seen this magnificent looking movie and why did it not get more attention upon release?” I believe the general answer is that Westerns don’t get enough serious critical attention these days and maybe they never have. But there are also flaws in this sometimes great movie that prevent it from being a classic.
The first two thirds are wonderful as we follow Sam Shepard’s Butch Cassidy through his mature routine and his new quest to get back to America, all spoiled by a man on the run. Shepard is grizzled and resistant to the stranger but eventually follows his journey to retrieve money stolen from the richest man in South America. There’s a great buddy dynamic between these two that doesn’t get cheesy. The photography of their journey is so stunning it’s hard to believe, specifically a gunfight on the salt flats which must rank high as one of the best locations for a Western action scene ever.
However, two things start to drag this good picture down. One is the flashbacks that show and seemingly explain why Butch is alive. I see why they included these but they feel totally unnecessary and uneven with the rest of the narrative. Second is the last act, the final third of the movie which takes it in a misguided direction. I won’t spoil anything but I really did not like the finale of this film. The script goes the wrong direction and nearly ruins what was great about the first part of the movie.
Oh well. The film does feature what is probably the last great lead performance for Sam Shepard. He will be missed.
Watched on Amazon Prime.