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All the Pretty Horses

Starring Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Lucas Black and Penelope Cruz; Ruben Blades and Miriam Colon
Screenplay by Ted Tally
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy
Directed by Billy Bob Thornton
website: www.miramax2000.com/horses


IN SHORT: A dud. [Rated PG-13 for violence and some sexuality. 135 minutes]

As is policy with this site, no comparison is made to the Source Material. We don't think you should have to read a book to appreciate the intricacies of a plot. We don't think you should have to read a book to understand why director Billy Bob Thornton allows characters that seemingly have absolutely nothing to do with the story to have significant amounts of screen time. In movie talk that means as little as a few seconds of the camera lingering on a face, as happens repeatedly in a scene at a train station near the end of the film. Those are usually friends of the director. OR giving much more than a few seconds to a character doing a tap dance in response to one side of a telephone conversation. That's something you have to read the book to understand -- we got that info from the detailed press notes that explained what a great book Horses was and how every effort had been made to honor it. Points off for explaining to us what should have been clear to folk paying hard cash.

We had high expectations for All the Pretty Horses. Good cast. Good director, himself a good actor which usually means a sympathetic ear and the ability to bring out good performances in his actors. What we saw was a flat piece of storytelling, chapter after chapter in the life of a young man of Texas, post W.W.II. John Grady Cole (Matt Damon) by name, cowboy by trade, with his grandfather recently deceased he hoped to take over the family ranch. When his mother, the sole inheritor, decides to sell the land (for three times its book value) to oil interests, John and his best friend Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) saddle up and head for Mexico, where there are large cattle ranches to be found.

Just before they cross the Rio Grande they are joined by a kidlet named Blevins (Lucas Black) who tells them a background story that both know is a lie. In Mexico, Blevins gets his horse and clothes stolen, steals the horse back and rides off in a different direction, chased by the locals. That's trouble waiting to come back on the main pair, who find work on a ranch. John Grady impresses the ranch's owner (Ruben Blades) and catches the eye of the owner's wild of heart daughter, Alejandra (Penelope Cruz).

We're not about to explain the murder charge, the penitentiary life, the authoritarian aunt (Miriam Colon, who delivers a spectacular screen grabbing presence) or the judge (Bruce Dern) who must decide if the cowboy is pulling his leg. There's too much story here to fit easily into a trim two hours fifteen minutes, a typical problem in adapting really thick novels to really slim movie reality. Trade buzz had Thornton's original cut at four hours. We could easily have sat for three -- it's a beautifully made film to look at and, in Colon's sequences, riveting to watch. What survived the cut lays out flat, as we wrote it feels like looking at chapter after chapter, rather than a free-flowing story.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to All the Pretty Horses, he would have paid...

$3.00

All the pretty horses and all the talented men, and women, can't squash what wants to be an epic into non-epic time constraints.

amazon com link Click to buy films by Billy Bob Thornton
Click to buy films starring Matt Damon
Click to buy films starring Penelope Cruz

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