Follow us on

Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Blackthorn

December 19th, 2011

Blackthorn - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Blackthorn missed the Mendoza Line during its opening weekend back in October. It's hard to spin that result in a positive light, but if one were determined to try, they could point out that the entire box office was soft that weekend and the best new limited release only managed a per theater average of less than $4000. So is Blackthorn a good movie that just fell victim to a soft market? Or was it one of the reasons the market was soft.

The Movie

The film begins with a few intertitle screens telling us about the life and crimes of Butch Cassidy. He ran with a couple infamous gangs, but eventually met his end in 1908, along with his good friend The Sundance Kid, in a stand-off against the Bolivian Army. At least that was the legend. This film imagines what could have happen if Butch Cassidy survived that encounter and went on to live under an assumed name, James Blackthorn.

Flash forward to 1927, we meet James Blackthorn as he is writing a letter to his nephew. He's been living in Bolivia for some time and likes the land and the people, but has decided he needs to return home one last time. He says goodbye to Yana, his lover, heads into town to sell the last of his horses, withdraws his money from the bank and gets ready to leave.

He has to travel through some desolate terrain and it would be easy for someone to get lost and die in this part of the world. Along the way he spots signs of a traveler that may have suffered that fate, when he comes across a dead horse. However, the horse's owner, Eduardo Apodaca, isn't dead, but thinks Blackthorn is one of the men who is out to get him. Shots are fired and Blackthorn's horse, Cinco, rides off with all of his possessions. Now he's stuck with Eduardo in the desert with no money and no horse to ride out on. At first he leaves Eduardo to die alone, but Eduardo follows him and offers to pay him. It seems he recently robbed one of the mines belonging to Simon Patino, stealing $50,000 and now Simon Patino's men are after him.

Stealing $50,000 from one of the richest men in all of South America is not a wise thing to do. But fortunately, it's not the first time James Blackthorn has been in a tough situation, as we see in flash backs from his prime.

I'm of two minds when it comes to this film. It does have a lot of strengths, including the performance by Sam Shepard and the undeniable beauty of Bolivia. The setup regarding the non-deaths of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the hands of the Bolivian army had a lot of potential. After all, their deaths are part of their legend. That said, as the final adventure of an aging gunslinger, the film is not as compelling as it should have been. I was far more interested in the exploits of Eduardo Apodaca.

The film is worth checking out for fans of the genre, but hearing Sam Shepard doing the little things, talking with Yana, confronting the man who had chased him 20 years before, or "Sam Hall" were bigger assets than the main plot.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD start with 22 minutes of deleted scenes, but they are presented in one large chunk. There is a ten-minute making of featurette and a shorter five-minute HDNet Look At... Finally, there are also two short films, Breaking and Entering and Say Me.

There are no exclusive extras on the Blu-ray. It is BD-Live enabled. The film does look great in high definition, especially taking into account the film's budgetary restraints and other considerations. There are several scenes where the two men are riding on the salt flats and the screen is a sea of white. The detail is strong in these scenes, but there are almost no colors to be seen. The audio is likewise good with clear dialogue, as well as some ambient sounds and directional effects. It's not showy, but it gets the job done. Finally, the Blu-ray only costs $3 or 19% more than the DVD and it is hard to argue with that price.

The Verdict

The best parts of Blackthorn rise above the main plot, which is sadly the weak link here. It's worth checking out, but I don't think it is a classic in the genre. There are enough extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray that fans of the genre will want to buy it over just renting, while it is worth paying an extra $3 for the Blu-ray.

- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review, Blackthorn