DVD Review: Blackthorn

Blackthorn DVDSTUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Mateo Gil | CAST: Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea, Magaly Solier, Dominique McElligott
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/20/2011 | PRICE: DVD $26.98, Blu-ray $29.98
BONUSES: featurette, deleted scenes, short films, trailers
SPECS: R | 102 min. | Western drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Blackthorn movie scene

Sam Shepard is Blackthorn.

The western drama Blackthorn is set in 1927 Bolivia where outlaw Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard, Fair Game), presumed dead since 1908, is actually alive and well and living a peaceful, straight life under the pseudonym James Blackthorn. But when plans to slip back into America to see his family go awry, Blackthorn is forced together with a new breed of swindler (Eduardo Noriega, Transsiberian) and finds himself once again evading capture and execution by a wily pursuer (Stephen Rea, Nothing Personal).

The movie humors the conspiracy theorists who believe Butch and Sundance survived — or were not even present at — the siege at San Vicente and went on to live out their lives in obscurity before dying of natural causes. It’s an appealing concept for anyone like me who, every time we view the popular 1969 Oscar-winning film, wish it could end differently.

As Blackthorn/Butch, Shepard picks up Paul Newman’s mantle of everyman charm, crafting a character to root for even though he’s in essence an outlaw who’s just looking out for Number One. The stories of The Sundance Kid and his companion Etta Place both before and after 1908 are revealed through flashbacks and contemplative moments by Blackthorn.

Though it could have been produced as a high-concept, big-budget sequel, in the hands of director Mateo Gil (Nobody Knows Anybody), Blackthorn is an unassuming gem, rich in character and dusty, color-drained Bolivian landscapes and only as showy as necessary to accommodate a few gunfights. Whether you believe the conspiracy theorists, it’s the kind of dignified ending you’d want for a villain with a heart of gold coins.

The DVD and Blu-ray feature a handful of extras, which were unavailable for review at press time. They include deleted scenes, a “Making of Blackthorn” featurette, the HDNet “Look at Blackthorn” documentary and a selection of short films by director Gil.

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About Gary

Gary Frisch has been contributing laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray reviews to Video Business magazine, Home Theater Magazine, Home Theater Buyer’s Guide, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater and the DVD Guide for more than 14 years. He still has a collection of more than 40 laserdiscs, along with a working auto-reverse LD player, but thinks Blu-ray is da bomb and anxiously awaits the original Star Wars trilogy so he can buy it for the fifth time.