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Saturday, 7 June 2014

Bring Me the Head of Butch Cassidy

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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