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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 23 April 2012
I saw this film at home on its day of release (courtesy of Curzon On Demand), a couple of weeks ago, and it's almost made it to DVD already. These are sure signs that the distributors are anxious about making their money back!

However, I don't think that this film deserves to 'stay under the radar'. I'll admit that I was initially sceptical about a film based on the premise that Butch Cassidy and his mate Sundance survived the shootout in Bolivia portrayed at the end of the Newman/Redford film, and that it contained imagined flashbacks to their younger days. I was expecting a flimsy cash-in. However, thanks to Sam Shepard and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (playing the old and young Butch, respectively), and a splendidly bitter and drunken turn from Stephen Rea as ex-Pinkertons agent Mackinley, this film becomes a moving and involving Western in its own right. In addition, there is some excellent music from Shepard and stunning photography throughout (particularly the shots of the salt flats that Shepard and his fellow refugeee from justice have to traverse).

Basically, Butch Cassidy is living out his days as James Blackthorn, and is on his way home after selling his horses in Bolivia. However, he becomes entangled with a Spaniard played by Eduardo Noriega, and reluctantly agrees to help him escape his pursuers. However, misty-eyed old age has caused him to misjudge the situation and Blackthorn learns some harsh truths with Mackinley's help.
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I really cannot believe that this beautifully crafted film only received luke warm reviews in America upon its release. I have a suspicion that these reviews may be influenced by envy. The Americans used to be masters of the western in bygone days, then came the Italian usurpers who heralded in the Europeans. Still the Americans held sway with magnificent films like "The Wild Bunch" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", but the quality started to dwindle and has now petered out to a few modern day B type offerings. Not good for the ancestral home of the western! Now the Spanish go out to South America and knock all the recent American films into a cocked hat! What temerity!

Intelligently scripted and sublimely shot in Bolivia and Argentina this film takes the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid legend a step beyond their supposed fatal shootings, made so famous in George Roy Hill's famous film. What if they had survived? The what if factor, leads us into a further South American adventure with the door open to a sequel, which sadly is unlikely to happen. Butch is on his way home when he comes across a Spaniard fleeing from a vengeful posse. This is a very South American style posse. During this meeting Butch loses all his money. The Spaniard has supposedly robbed a wealthy mining tyrant of his money and offers Butch a half share if he helps him out of the fix he is in. Butch helps him, but things turn out to be not quite the way they seem, and there is an interesting twist to the story.

Set in 1927 the film is cleverly interspersed with scenes of Butch, Sundance and Etta Place in their earlier days, culminating in Butch being left all alone. The scenery is stupendous and surely there can be no better place to film a western today than the arid wastes of Bolivia. The scenes on the salt pan eclipse similar Death Valley scenes from William Wellman's fine western "Yellow Sky" made way back in 1948. Sam Shepard is simply immense in his role. He looks and talks the part of the grizzled old outlaw Butch Cassidy, now using the name Blackthorn. Sam even manages to sing a damn good song in the film. A perfect piece of casting. Stephen Rea does a fine turn as an ex Pinkerton man who does Butch a good turn. There is a lovely scene where he finally catches up with the now aged outlaw.

One reviewer comparing the film to George Roy Hill's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and Richard Lester's only western "Butch and Sundance: The Early Years", said it was "compared to the quicksilver brilliance of its predecessors, it comes off as irredeemably minor". Eloquent words but also total rubbish! Without blowing my own trumpet too much I think I may have seen a few more westerns that this wet behind the ears greenhorn reviewer. That hombre needs riding out of town! This film is as good in its own way as the other two, and is a refreshing take on the legendary outlaws. Special praise to the cinematographer Juan Ruiz-Anchia who has captured an awesome landscape in all its grandeur. The director Mateo Gil has made one of the very finest westerns to come out for a good few years. Certainly a far cry from the poor American offerings we have had in recent years. It deserves to be much better known and have a place in any western enthusiasts collection.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 April 2013
Blackthorn is directed by Mateo Gil and written by Miguel Barros. It stars Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea, Magaly Solier, Nikolaj Costsr-Waldau, Padraic Delaney and Dominique McElligott. Music is by Lucio Godoy and cinematography by Juan Ruiz Anchia.

It was believed that Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid both perished at the hands of the Bolivian army in 1908. Not so, for here is Butch Cassidy 20 years after the supposed event, alive and well and living in a secluded Bolivian village under the name James Blackthorn...

What a lovely idea, that of one of history's most famous outlaws actually living longer than history led us to believe. Ok, it's a scratchy premise but it allows for a quite elegiac film as we follow an older and grizzled Cassidy on another adventure. That adventure sees him team up with mischievous Spaniard Eduardo Apodaca, the latter of which tries to rob Blackthorn/Cassidy and then offers to repay the old outlaw with the proceeds from some hidden loot stashed away from a robbery. They set off and sure enough there is a posse on their tail, meaning the pair have to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, something which puts the twinkle back in Cassidy's eyes. But not all is as it seems and with flash backs showing Butch and Sundance in their prime (Waldau as the young Cassidy is an inspired choice as per likeness to Shepard), aided by the feisty Etta Place, this is a fully rounded tale.

The film quite simply is unhurried and respectful to the art of story telling and is rich with a lead characterisation of considerable substance (Shepard is wonderful, really gets to the soul of the character). Oh it is punctured by the odd action scene, even some humour is in the mix, there's even time for machismo and romantic threads of worth, but this beats a melancholy heart and is All the better for it. It also happens to be one of the most gorgeously photographed Westerns of the modern era. Filmed primarily on location in Bolivia, the landscapes - be it the mountainous ranges or pin sharp salt flats - are sublime, God's wonderful Earth in all its glory expertly realised by Anchia, marking this out as an absolute Blu-ray essential for Western fans big into location photography. While Godoy's musical score is pitch perfect for the tonal flows in the narrative.

There's the odd cliché, Rea is a touch wasted and some may decry the simplicity of plot, but this is thoughtful and awash with the love of the Western genre. If only for Shepard and the photography then this is worth it for Western fans, as it is it also calls out to those who like some emotional reflection in their Oaters. 8/10
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Heroic leaders of the Wild Bunch and The Train Robbers Syndicate – Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid were eventually hounded into South America where both died in a shoot out with the military at San Vicente in 1908. But recent excavations for their bones have revealed that neither set of remains is there. Enter Director MATEO GIL and Writer MIGUEL BAROS and their superb 2011 film "Blackthorn" - 'reinterpreting' the lives of those men of folklore and Wild West legends.

It’s now 1927 and James Blackthorn (the older Butch Cassidy played to grizzly perfection by the hugely watchable Sam Sheppard) lives a simple life as a horse-breeder in a tiny farmstead in the Bolivian Mountains - occasionally visited by his local lover/maid Yana (great work by Magaly Solier). He writes letters to his nephew Ryan in America signed by Uncle Butch telling the lad they will soon be joined at last and live out a good life together.

But on the way back from a horse trade/card game in a nearby town – a desperate Spaniard called Eduardo Apodaca robs him of $6000. The man from Madrid claims he only shot at Blackthorn’s horse because he himself is being hunted – but not for fame to prove the legend still lives – but for $50,000 hidden in a mine – the fruits of a greedy land boss who’s fleeced the locals of everything. The charming Eduardo promises he’ll pay back Blackthorn everything he’s lost – and the two outlaws form a wary and unlikely alliance out of necessity as they try to evade a posse of 12 Chilean horsemen who know the terrain and seem relentless in their pursuit.

Cleverly flashing back to the younger Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid between 1900 and 1908 - what happened to them and their feisty lady in tow Etta Place - slowly begins to unfold. The young Butch and Sundance are played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Games Of Thrones) and Padraic Delaney with Etta portrayed by the exquisitely beautiful Dominique McElligott (the camera adores this woman – the stunning looks of Olivia Wilde meets the playfulness of Taylor Schilling). Thrown into this heady mix is Stephen Rea as Irishman MacKinley who once had the famous duo in his custodial grasp only to be made a fool of for the rest of his life (fabulous work by Rea as the older drunk and embittered version). And on it goes to gun-battle with desperados in the scorching white arid expanse of the Salt Flats where Eduardo may not have been entirely honest with Blackthorn…

Handsome male and female leads in Frontier garb, horses galloping across grassy plains, campfires in the moonlight, water dripping onto gravel mountain paths, dirty faces in dusty shacks, women wearing Pollera pleated-skirts, Manta woollen shawls and round bowlers hats while they holster guns in rot-gut Chicha bars along railway tracks… As you can imagine "Blackthorn" is a looker on BLU RAY. Defaulted to 16 x 9 – it also fills the full screen beautifully - grittily realistic and as the Spaniard says looking out over canyons - "Sometimes it's beautiful…" Audio is 5.1 English DTS-HD, there are no subtitles and disappointingly there are no extras either.

Rewatching it on BLU RAY for a second time "Blackthorn" proves a far more rewarding Western fix than I'd first thought and in some ways is better than the more vaunted "True Grit". Mount up your mule, fix your hat, stick a cigar in your mouth, scratch your whiskers, get your ukulele out and start singing "Damn your eyes…" out loud all the way home to your ye-ha ranch.

Hell - you know you want to 'pardner'…
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on 2 July 2012
... this a great Western... a minor master piece...
no joke... I was lucky to see this film at the cinema
... it does not disappoint... a moving story, of
friendship and betrayal. Beautiful shot... and
well acted... if you watch one last Western, make it
this one... it is well worth it...
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Blackthorn is one of those films. The kind that you discover and fall in love with. It exists and this is already a miracle.
Between The Good, The Bad, The Weird and Walter Salles is Blackthorn. The meditative beauty, poetic narration and sublime photography of Salles and something of the supercool bravura of Kim Jee Woon's masterpiece.
Everything pays off here: the unexpected flashbacks which actually work dramatically and interact with the central story, the performance of Shephard which is Oscar worthy - this sounds like a cliché but he is really wonderful in this film and deserves recognition for his brilliant work - Eduardo Noriega is also back to being the resolutely appealing actor able to make you feel for him even when his character is unsympathetic, which he proved in the classic Abre Los Ojos.
Blackthorn is a sad film which tells the story of an aging outlaw's attempt to make up for the things he regrets as he's nears the end of his life. It is exciting, beautiful, sensitive and true. See it if you can and be glad you did.
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on 19 May 2016
Given the premise [and it being a sequel], I didn't think this was going to amount to was on TV one night and I liked it so much I bought this DVD - a simple story, well told and acted, as well as beautifully shot.
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In recent years researchers have attempted to resolve the rumours concerning the death of 'Butch Cassidy' and 'the Sundance Kid' in a shoot-out in a Bolivian town in 1908, however after investigating the grave in which the locals claim the two were placed, no 'DNA' sample suggests they were placed there.
The film tells the tale of 'Butch' some years later yearning to return to the 'States' from which he had fled with 'Sundance' and 'Etta' years back.
He decides that it is time to do so leaving the small holding he'd lived at since the shoot-out.
Things don't go to plan. he becomes, by chance involved with a 'Spanish' thief, who just so happens to have a dozen armed villagers on his trail.
'Butch' lost his money because of the 'Spaniard' and is tempted to have a share of the '50,000 dollars the stranger had stolen.
'Butch' years on from the shoot-out, again finds himself on the run.
I did enjoy this along with having the final days of 'Butch' and 'Sundance' told in frequent flashbacks.
Well worth a viewing.
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on 7 June 2014
Sam Shepard is as watchable as ever as the titular Blackthorn in this predominantly Spanish-produced Western that harks back to the latter days of the genre's golden period. But Blackthorn also rejoices in some of the fresh realism that has been a feature of the few successful Westerns since the likes of Robert Mitchum and the Duke himself hung up their spurs in the late 60's, with Kevin Costner and godfather of the modern western, Clint Eastwood, seemingly at the forefront of the drive to keep the genre alive. Shepard does hard-bitten outlaw as well as anyone, but it would be a lesser watch without the strong support of Eduardo Noriega (Vantage Point, The Devil's Backbone) and Stephen Rea (no reference required!), and the characters around them, including support from South American actors led by Peruvian actress Magaly Solier, which deserve much credit, and all enhance the production significantly. The flashbacks to more familiar past events are inevitable given the central conceit, and this is where the main scenes are in danger of being undermined. The scenes from the past, featuring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Padraig Delaney and Dominique McElligott, seem to attempt the easy comedic camaraderie of the original Newman-Redford film, but fall a long way short. Still, the flashbacks are not long, and Shepard's performance relegates any concerns to the back of one's mind. Blackthorn is less po-faced and introspective than The Assassination of Jesse James, more expansive than Unforgiven and more challenging than Open Range. Not to be missed by genre fans, and deserving of attention from everyone.
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on 25 September 2012
"Blackthorn" takes a simple premise (what if Butch Cassidy didn't die in 1908) and fleshes out an excellent story of an older Cassidy yearning to return home. Sam Shepard is excellent as always and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in "Game of Thrones") is also great in flashbacks to Cassidy's younger days. The Blu-ray picture and sound is excellent, unfortunately no extras are included.
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