Blackthorn effectively retells the story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made famous by the Robert Redford and Paul Newman film.
Sam Shepard plays an old Butch (now calling himself James Blackthorn) living out his days peacefully in Bolivia. As Butch makes one final journey back home to America he gets tangled up with a young bandit called Eduardo (Eduardo Noriega) and soon he is once again being chased across a barren landscape by gangs and lawmen.
The film’s narrative is intercut with flashbacks revealing a new version of the Butch and Sundance myth, detailing how they survived the famous gunfight in San Vicente. The King Slayer himself (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) brings life to the young Butch and along with Padraic Delaney as Sundance the two capture the fun of the partners that made them so endearing in 1969.
Like Unforgiven before it, Blackthorn deals with the realities of cowboys living to an old age. Filled with regret and a longing for the past, Shepard portrays Cassidy with a subtle blend of melancholy and the same sense of humor and attitude that makes it clear this is the same character played by Paul Newman. The actor even contributes to the soundtrack, singing original versions of ‘Ain’t no Grave’ and ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ made famous by Johnny Cash and Jamie Woon respectively.
Lighter moments of the plot are often contrasted with some brutal violence, reminding us of the realities of the time.
While Blackthorn expands on a story and stands as a film in its own right I would definitely recommend revisiting the Robert Redford film beforehand if like me you have vague memories from watching it on TV on a saturday afternoon.