Sunday, December 18, 2011
Butch Cassidy Rides Again in “Blackthorn”
By Skip Sheffield
What if Butch Cassidy did not die in a hail of bullets in 1908 in Bolivia?
That is the simple high concept of “Blackthorn,” a film that picks up years after the alleged death of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The story, written by Miguel Barros, begins in 1927 with Cassidy, born Robert LeRoy Parker in 1866, living as James Blackthorn (Sam Shepard) in a small Bolivian town with his much-younger girlfriend Yana (Magaly Solier).
As so often happens in later life, Butch gets a hankering to return to his homeland to see friends and family. So he withdraws his life savings from the local band, and sets off on horseback. Butch doesn’t get very far before he is ambushed by a young man who needs his horse. In the scuffle Butch shoots the young man and his horse runs off, money and all.
For an outlaw Butch is an old softie. He learns the young man is named Eduardo Apodaca and he is from Spain. Like Butch he is on the run because he has embezzled the equivalent of $50,000 from a mining company. Eduardo says if you help me I’ll help you, and we’ll split the loot.
So begins an unlikely friendship. Director Mateo Gil often flashes back to the past of Butch’s heyday as bank and train-robber. The younger Butch is played by Nikolai Coster-Waldau and Padraic Delaney plays the Sundance Kid.
It is kind of ironic the American myth of the Wild West has been recycled by two Spanish guys in South America. I have a soft spot for Westerns, and the scenery looks great, so I don’t mind.
Sam Shepard is a better playwright than actor, but he certainly looks the part of a grizzled yet still virile hero. There are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and a half.
Two and a half stars
A Sour and dark “Young Adult:”
Like your comedy dark and sour? One “Young Adult,” coming up.
Charlize Theron stars as eternal prom queen and spoiled princess Mavis Gary.
Mavis has made a living writing fairy tale romances for young readers, but her series is winding down and her marriage has ended. What is a 37-year-old girl to do?
For Mavis it is a return to past glories in her small hometown of Mercury, Minnesota- or so she thinks. Specifically, Mavis wants to win back her high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). No matter that Buddy is happily married and has just become a father, Mavis thinks she can lure him away from his “trapped existence” with Beth (Elizabeth Reaser).
In reality Beth is way cooler than Mavis ever will be. She even plays drums in a girl band.
If Mavis had any sense she would consider Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), the crippled, bitter loser who has adored her since high school. Mavis is a fool. She just doesn’t realize it.
“Young Adult” is written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, the same team that created “Juno.” Leave it to Diablo to find the humor in teenage pregnancy or a woman so vain and obnoxious her beauty disappears before your eyes. For gorgeous Charlize Theron that is a powerful bit of acting.
“Shame” on the Sex Addict
It’s hard to pity a sex addict. Likewise it is hard to embrace the character of Brandon Sullivan, a Manhattan junior executive who is obsessed with sex of all kinds regardless of the consequences.
The role is played by Michael Fassbender, an intense Irish actor who previously teamed with British writer-director Steve McQueen with “Hunger,” about a hunger-striker.
Brandon has a way with women. He can seduce a total stranger in minutes, as is so graphically depicted onscreen. Brandon gets no joy from his conquests, but he is helpless to stop.
“Shame” is the first mainstream movie rated NC-17 since “Midnight Cowboy,” and it is much more gritty and graphic than that rather idealized fable of friendship. “Shame” is exclusively playing the Gateway Theater, which specializes in films you are unlikely to see in the neighborhood multiplex. If you can steel yourself to the sad spectacle of a man destroying himself and anyone close to him, you will appreciate the incredible performance of Carey Mulligan as his equally-damaged sister.