Blackthorn on Blu-ray & DVD

Wednesday, 20 June 2012 14:45

Blackthorn - out on Blu-ray and DVDThe premise of this Western is that infamous outlaw Butch Cassidy miraculously survived the classic shootout, and retired in Bolivia to a quiet life taming horses. Now going by the name of Blackthorn, the ex-robber (Sam Shepard – “The Right Stuff”, “Black Hawk Down”) is on the return leg of a trip to sell some animals when he encounters a Spanish bandit. They exchange fire and Blackthorn witnesses his retirement fund disappearing into the distance on the back of his spooked horse.

The two men are forced into an uneasy alliance which by necessity slowly but surely develops into a friendship. The Spaniard, Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega – “The Devil’s Backbone”) is being relentlessly hunted by a dozen men hired by the company whose mine he stole a lot of money from. Blackthorn is dragged into his new companion’s hazardous affairs and risks exposing his true identity in the process.

“Blackthorn” is a refreshingly low-key Western that plays out in a realistic and sensitive manner. Gunplay is rare, and when it occurs it is short-lived and brutal, with none of the glamour, grandstanding or gung-ho action seen in the likes of “Young Guns”.

Shepard is superb as the mild-mannered but very wily and self-assured old man, still able to call on his old skills at a moment’s notice. He wants to return home to the US to peacefully live out his final years, but is forced to take this unexpected and potentially explosive diversion in his stride.

Noriega also puts in an accomplished and charming performance as the much younger, less experienced criminal who initially finds himself relying on the older man, and is keen to learn. Their partnership develops some good chemistry and some brief moments of levity such as when Blackthorn comically tends to Eduardo’s very saddle-sore behind.

The bulk of the action takes place in 1927 but the movie also features a few flashbacks to events twenty years earlier, featuring a younger Cassidy (played by the Game of Thrones guy you love to hate, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – a striking likeness to Shepard), Sundance (Padraic Delaney – The Tudors) and their delectable female associate Etta (Dominique McElligott – Hell on Wheels, “Moon”). These relatively brief scenes help to remind the audience that Blackthorn is no angel, no matter how honest his recent lifestyle has become.

Stephen Rae (“V for Vendetta”, Shadowline) rounds off the cast as the world-weary Mackinley, a Pinkerton detective hunting the outlaws down.

The cinematography and HD picture quality (on the Blu-ray version reviewed) is quite superb. Shot on location in various parts of Bolivia, the landscapes are stunning, featuring imposing mountain horizons, baked and shimmering salt flats, grassy plains and lush valleys. Every frame is pin-sharp. The simple guitar soundtrack suits the unassuming nature of the film, helping to establish atmosphere when required.

I strongly recommend this movie to fans of Westerns, especially those more recent entries like “Unforgiven” and more pertinently “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”, which both took the genre in a more realistic, less sensational direction. Oh, and look out for the cunning twist at the end!

The movie comes with no bonus content of any kind.

“Blackthorn” (2011) is out now, courtesy of Chelsea Films. The main feature has a running time of 102 minutes appro., carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £15.99 on DVD, £17.99 on Blu-ray, or less from

Last modified on Monday, 23 July 2012 10:40

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