When you think of Butch Cassidy we immediately add ‘and the Sundance Kid’, but if you saw the original movie, you know that the two died in a break to freedom in Bolivia.  But, what if Butch lived and escaped his untimely death?  This is the premise of the film Blackthorn starring Sam Shepard.  The movie is interesting, but a little too far fetched for me to handle.  If you are interested however in the unlikely possibility, or just want to see a well acted Bolivian western, then give this one a try.

According to historical legend the notorious Sundance Kid and his fellow train robber Butch Cassidy escaped the law in the United States and went to Bolivia, SA to settle down.  While there they got the itch back to stage some robberies and after some time were corralled by the Bolivian Army that didn’t like that too much.  In a standoff both Butch and Sundance were killed.

But years later we find James Blackthorn (Sam Shepard) living in the wilderness of Bolivia in a small secluded village.  Some 20 years have gone by and he has been writing to a son in the United States he has never met.  Feeling it is time to leave the mountains of South America and return to the states, Blackthorn barters his valuable goods in a remote town in return for some cash.

Sam Shepard as James Blackthorn

On his return along the treacherous road to his cabin to collect his belongings Eduardo Appocada (Edwardo Noriega) shoots him off his horse and the critter runs off with his saddlebags full of his money. Butch finally gets a drop on Eduardo and comes to the realization that he’ll have to depend on the man to get him back to his mountain home. When Butch finds out that Eduardo has a lot of money stashed away and will share it with him, he decides to help to guy in return for half.

Director Mateo Gil on the set of BLACKTHORN

The story as a stand alone road trip has some merit and gets filmed quite well by director Mateo Gil who wrote the film, Vanilla Sky, that was made into a movie starring Tom Cruz and Cameron Diaz.  But with Blackthorn he tries to make the improbable, probable and fails badly.  Although I get it that it is just a story, but the prospect of Butch Cassidy living in seclusion 20 years just doesn’t do it for me, especially when we are told he has a son he’s been writing to during that time.  Cassidy would never stay captive in any prison cell, let alone a hermit in a small cabin on a mountainside knowing he has a boy.

Sam Shepard does a good job as a lonesome cowboy who finds himself in a fix when he gets accosted, but nothing more to the plot than this.  I liked the drama involved, the cowboy ‘road trip’ and the characters.  If the film had just been about that, I would give it higher marks, but using Butch Cassidy as the draw here only makes the film shoddy at best.  The iconic lawless icon of the old west would turn in his grave if he saw the film.


Blackthorn has been rated R for violence and language by the MPAA.


FINAL ANALYSIS:  Corral your horse and wait for the DVD. (C ) 



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