Blackthorn posits the theory that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid survived their legendary standoff with the Bolivian army. Sundance didn’t stick around for long, but Butch (Sam Shepard), now using the titular pseudonym, has been lazily spending his days in a secluded South American village. The film opens with the aged outlaw’s decision to return to the U.S. and it’s not long before he’s riding horses, playing cards, and teaming up with a Spanish engineer (Eduardo Noriega) who leads him to a large amount of stolen money. They end up on-the-run once word gets out about the resurfacing of both Butch and the money and thus an element of danger is added to their trek through the snowy tundras and cliff side vistas of Bolivia. Butch’s backstory is told in interspersed flashbacks, which serve a greater purpose by illustrating the lasting impact of the past and the emotions that accompany it.
Spanish director Mateo Gil (writer of The Sea Inside and Open Your Eyes) has created a slow-paced, pre-spaghetti western in which the scenic Bolivian locales are on display just as much as Shepard’s world-weary snarls. He’s a joy to watch, a goodhearted grump who takes control of any situation with a casual, indifferent ease reminiscent of Jeff Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn. Fans of westerns will certainly be pleased.
Blackthorn opens today at the Ritz Five.