In "Blackthorn," Sam Shepard turns in a quiet, dignified performance as Robert LeRoy Parker, the man better known as Butch Cassidy.
Teaming up with Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, who became known as the Sundance Kid, the two were ranked among history's best-known bank robbers. According to reports, Butch and Sundance died at the hands of the Bolivian military in 1908, but this film questions the authenticity of those historical reports.
"Blackthorn" picks up several years after Cassidy's alleged death. Now living under the name James Blackthorn, the former bank robber has settled into a quiet life as a gentleman farmer in Bolivia, but he longs to reunite with his surviving family back in America.
Fate in the person of Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega) forces the former thief back into a life of crime. After Apodaca causes him to lose his nest egg, Blackthorn must accompany the younger man on one last robbery to get his money back.
In Shepard's hands, Butch Cassidy is much different than his previous cinematic incarnations, especially Paul Newman's interpretation of the character in 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." This Cassidy has logged some serious miles and simply wants to live out his golden years in peace.
Still, the man everyone knows as James Blackthorn is nobody's fool. When faced with slick young thief Eduardo Apodaca, he feeds the younger man enough rope in order to hang himself.
Writer/director Mateo Gil also has a deft touch when it comes to dialogue. In an early scene, Cassidy wanders into a bank to close out his account and is treated with deference and respect by the staff. His closing remarks to the tellers, especially after patiently waiting his turn in line, are absolutely priceless.
There's also an undercurrent of sadness in "Blackthorn" over Etta Place (Dominique McElligott), a longtime companion of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Shown only in flashbacks, it's hard to tell which man Etta truly preferred, Butch or Sundance.
Etta's reported death is the catalyst of the story, prompting Cassidy to leave his Bolivian exile to see Etta's son. Director Gil also plants the idea that Cassidy may be the true father of the child.
Shepard's portrayal of Butch Cassidy combined with Gil's beautiful background footage make "Blackthorn" a rare treat.
"Blackthorn," rated R for language and violence, opens in limited release on October 7.
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- Butch Cassidy
- Sam Shepard