Did Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid really die in a hail of bullets in a standoff with the Bolivian military in 1908. Cassidy (Sam Shepard)survived and is living in a secluded Bolivian Village under his new name James Blackthorn. Tired of his long exile from the US, he sets out to make the arduous journey home to see his family. But when an unexpected encounter with an ambitious young criminal derails his plans, he is thrust into one last adventure, the likes of which he has not experienced since his glory days with the Sundance Kid.
In the 1969 director George Roy Hill’s classic ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, Butch Cassidy was butchered by bullets. In 2011’s ‘Blackthorn’, director Mateo Gil, resurrects Butch from the dead and imagine him as an outlaw who has outrun the law one last time and turned into a subdued rancher in Bolivia.
Set in the late 1920’s, Butch Cassidy has now become James Blackthorn (Sam Shepard) who lives a quiet rancher’s life and even has a dalliance or two with the local native woman (Magaly Solier). He seems to be content, living the life of an old man retired from crime. But Blackthorn wants to reconnect with his son, whom he has never met since, and the only way to do it is to return to America. He withdraws his money from a bank – how ironic – and saddles up but a horse thief (Eduardo Noriega) mucks up his plans.
The horse that holds Blackthorn’s substantial riches has run away. Eduardo proposes a trip to a mining cave where he has stashed money he also just stole to split up with Blackthorn as a form of apology. Somehow the saying ‘There is no honor among thieves’ comes to mind with this deal. And yet Blackthorn agrees and so he returns to being Butch Cassidy, hotly pursued once again and immersed in a life of crime. On Blackthorn’s tail is also a lawman (Stephen Rea) who has not given up on finding him, one of the few who believed that Butch escaped death and has been living under a different name.
‘Blackthorn’ is a curious experiment on what ifs and with Sam Shepard at the helm, his understated performance of an aging outlaw and fugitive is palpable. It’s a one-last-job-before-I-do-right film with dire consequences. Do what you will with it. If you’re expecting men on horseback in shootouts, you’ll get them but they’re not expertly filmed. The most beautiful shots are Bolivia and the salt lands, showing tranquility, mystery, and roughness that also reflect Blackthorn’s complexity. If you were an outlaw, can you truly quit?