(Oorspronkelijk uitgebracht in 2011, maar dankzij vertraging in 2013 uitgebracht in NL)
Blackthorn presents a "what-if" scenario that might be potentially interesting. What if the notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy wasn't gunned down in Bolivia in 1908, but survived his wounds and lived incognito under the assumed name James Blackthorne? That's the idea here, the movie is set 20 years after his legendary death and finds the elder Cassidy, played by the ever-reliable Sam Shepard, to be a man who, after all these years, still has the pep and cleverness that made him famous. This is not a follow-up, by the way, to George Roy Hill's 1968 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but one might be tempted to think so. Fans of that film wouldn't find this a worth follow-up anyway.
We first meet the legendary outlaw still living in Bolivia in a kind-of blissful retirement under his assumed name, living (and sleeping) with his Mexican housekeeper Yana (Magaly Solier) and frequently checking out the town's wanted posters just in case his own mug turns up. But something is nagging at the old man and he longs to return to the United States, to a son that he frequently writes letters to. Why he needs to return to the states isn't very clear. He seems to have an okay life there in Bolivia, why did he need to pull up stakes? I suppose, if he stayed in Bolivia, the movie wouldn't set out of the dusty trail for gunfights and pretty horses.
On the road, Butch's plan of traveling back to America is undone by a wet-behind-the-ears mining engineer named Eduardo who scares off Butch's horse whose saddlebags contained his retirement. Butch knows that the kid has robbed a rich man and leads him down a mine shaft where he has hidden it. Eduardo needs protection from the millionaire's head hunters who want the money back. Butch doesn't need this kind of heat especially when the pursuit gets the attention of McKinley, an agent of the old Pinkerton Gang, who has been tracking him these past 20 years.
All of this sounds more interesting than it plays out. There's nothing in this movie that is really distinctive. It is your garden-variety, standard shoot-em-up, nothing that suggests that this is Butch's story. Throughout the picture we get flashbacks to the good old days, to Butch and his outlaw buddy The Sundance Kid. Those scenes are propped up to show up the glory years, but they don't seem to have a point.Shepard does an okay job at playing the lead, but there's something too polished and relaxed about this Butch Cassidy. One might think that a notorious outlaw who has spent two decades looking over his shoulder might seem a little tense or a little more cautious. Plus, someone with his past might have eyes that would suggest a little more regret. This whole movie comes off at that level. It never presents a western landscape that feels like a real place. Everything is cleaned-up and propped up to be a movie.
The best part of "Blackthorn" is the beautiful Bolivian scenery, especially the salt flats sequence. At the same time, that along with an extended cameo overshadow the lived-in and low-key performance from Sam Shepard which also fits in well with Butch Cassidy being more of a passive anti-hero this time around. But if you are going to the trouble to take a legendary outlaw like Cassidy out of cultural retirement, shouldn't one at least think of a better story that can stand on its own? For example, nothing against Bolivia of which we get some valuable history here, I think it would have worked out significantly better if this had been about Butch Cassidy already living in the United States as something of a living ghost.