Butch: dead or alive?

Di­rec­tor Ma­teo Gil pon­ders Butch Cas­sidy’s re­tire­ment in this ele­giac western, writes Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

15A cert, Light House Cinema, Dublin, 100 min TWENTY YEARS have passed since 1908 when Butch Cas­sidy (Sam Shep­ard) changed his name to James Black­thorn and took up quiet res­i­dency in the Bo­li­vian hills. When he learns that Etta Place, his old Hole in the Wall gang girl­friend, has died, he de­cides it’s time to make the long trek home.

Wav­ing good­bye to his lover Yana (Ma­galy Solier), he sets out for Po­tosí to sell his horses. In­evitably, there’s a com­pli­ca­tion. Ed­uardo Apodaca (Ed­uardo Nor­iega), a Span­ish min­ing en­gi­neer, shoots at Black­thorn, then begs for his pro­tec­tion and mercy. In re­turn Apodaca will share part of the $50,000 he stole from Simón Patiño, an in­dus­tri­al­ist and mine owner.

Can he be trusted? And can the pair evade a posse that in­cludes Black­thorn’s old Pinker­ton agency neme­sis, Det Mackin­ley (Stephen Rea)? Leg­end tells us that Butch Cas­sidy and the Sun­dance Kid died in a Bo­li­vian shoot-out in 1908. But DNA records beg to dif­fer. What if, as fam­ily and friends have main­tained, Butch lived south of the bor­der well into his bus-pass years? What if Ge­orge Roy Hill’s bro­mance was wrong? What if no one shouted “¡ Fuego!” over a frozen frame?

Ma­teo Gil, the canny screen­writer be­hind Open Your Eyes, The Sea In­side and Agora, pon­ders Cas­sidy’s re­tire­ment in this ele­giac western. Deftly cut­ting be­tween the mis­ad­ven­tures of the younger gang (Padraic De­laney, Nikolaj Coster-waldau and Do­minique Mcel­lig­ott) and the griz­zled, au­tum­nal Black­thorn, Gil’s story si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­bunks, de­con­structs and prints the leg­end.

There’s a lot of Ser­gio Leone in Juan Ruiz Anchía’s oth­er­worldly cin­e­matog­ra­phy and in Shep­ard’s Duck, you Sucker stare. The salt flats and high al­ti­tudes make for a vis­i­bly hor­ren­dous fron­tier and the fate of our he­roes’ un­for­tu­nate an­i­mal com­pan­ions gives a whole new di­men­sion to the term “horse opera”.

Older thes­pi­ans Shep­ard and Rea steal the show but the younger cast leave a last­ing im­pres­sion. Ir­ish ac­tor De­laney is su­per and fel­low na­tional Mcel­lig­ott, lately of RTÉ’S Raw and On Home Ground, gives Hole in the Wall gal Etta Place some greatly needed chutz­pah. She’s al­most enough of a badass to make us for­get about Katharine Ross’s weedy por­trait. Bike rides and Bacharach? As if.

There will be blood: Ed­uardo Apodaca, a Span­ish min­ing en­gi­neer played by Ed­uardo Nor­iega

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