All The Pretty Horses

All The Pretty Horses

**1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Modern Westerns are few and far between. This one has the pedigree of a thoroughbred, based on one of the great American novels by Cormac McCarthy.

The actor Billy Bob Thornton directs with the sensitivity of a cowpoke. He ruins the most gut-wrenching scene by overloading it with slow-motion and cheap emotional tricks. If ever a film needed the integrity of its source material, this is it.

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Matt Damon, as John Grady Cole, who has worked horses all his life in West Texas, is completely miscast. He was an unconvincing golfing hero in The Legend Of Bagger Vance, but this is worse. The archetypal nice young man, Harvard-educated Damon, who shared Oscar honours with his friend Ben Affleck for writing Good Will Hunting, is a yuppie at heart. He looks uncomfortable in the wide open spaces and tiny on the back of a stallion.

Cole should incorporate the best qualities of men who have lived all their lives in the big land. There is a dignity about respecting animals and understanding nature and keeping quiet about what you know. Damon behaves as if he is not entirely sure what will happen next, while Cole in the book had such strong moral courage and belief in his own ability that life offered few fears for him.

The year is 1949 and he and his friend, Rawlins (Henry Thomas), ride over the border into Mexico to find work on the huge estates. They are taken on by Rocha (Ruben Blades), a millionaire with businesses in Mexico City and family roots in the hacienda. His beautiful daughter, Alejandra (Penelope Cruz), falls in love with Cole, which causes intense anxiety in the household.

She is sent away. Cole and Rawlins are arrested for something they didn't do and thrown into jail. In Mexico, if you break the code, you are finished. A young girl's reputation is all she has. If she loses that, there is no hope for her. Cole is told this by the ancient aunt at the hacienda. His involvement with Alejanda would destroy her relationship with her father. Even so, he is determined to see her one more time.

Cruz's role is small, but perfectly formed. She is a much better actress than she is given credit for. Even so, she cannot make Damon look like the right man.

Reviewed on: 23 May 2001
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All The Pretty Horses packshot
A Forties cowboy goes looking for work in Texas with a pal... but all he finds is love and trouble.
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Director: Billy Bob Thornton

Writer: Ted Tally, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy

Starring: MattDamon, Henry Thomas, Penelope Cruz, Lucas Black, Rueben Blades, Miriam Colon

Year: 2001

Runtime: 116 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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