Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

Director Billy Bob Thornton holds these truths to be self-evident: A sweeping

Western landscape is worth 1,000 words; horses are just about God's finest

creations, though spirited young women and stoic young men come close; and

Cormac McCarthy's spare narrative can survive separation from his evocative

prose. Set in 1949, the same period as THE HI-LO COUNTRY, McCarthy's novel is

suffused with the same sense of loss at the spectacle of the fabled Western

frontier dwindling before corporate America's ruthless encroachment. After his

grandpa dies and his estranged mother sells off the family's West Texas

spread, young John Grady Cole (Matt Damon) and his childhood pal, Lacey

Rawlins (Henry Thomas), saddle up and head for Mexico, where they've heard

there are still vast cattle ranches waiting to be worked by eager cowboys. The

friends ride part of the way with a scrawny, underage, hard-luck runaway named

Blevins (Lucas Black), and part company with him under circumstances that come

back to haunt them. They find work in Mexico, and Cole's gumption impresses

el jefe Rocha (Ruben Blades), but he makes the mistake of falling for Rocha's headstrong daughter, Alejandra (Penelope Cruz). The consequences of

Cole's impetuosity test to the breaking point both his love for Alejandra and

his friendship with Rawlins. Thornton's devotion to classical Western

conventions is evident, as is his love of McCarthy's book — it must have

pained him to pare away so much resonant detail for length. His determination

to cast authentically is also laudable: Thornton rejected several bankable

actresses for the role of Alejandra with a terse, "She ain't Mexican"

(strictly speaking, neither is Cruz, but at least she's Latin). But Damon is

stiff and colorless, and the leads are older than their characters were

originally written, robbing a certain poignance from their crash course in

life's brutal unfairness. The movie's greatest liability, though, is the

familiarity of the material, much parodied since the glory days of John Ford.

Unfortunately, Thornton's love for its iconography doesn't quite bring it to

life.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • User Rating:3.67 out of 5 (3 ratings)
  • Your Rating:
  • Review: Director Billy Bob Thornton holds these truths to be self-evident: A sweeping Western landscape is worth 1,000 words; horses are just about God's finest creations, though spirited young women and stoic young men come close; and Cormac McCarthy'… (more)

Show More »