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All The Pretty Horses

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: All The Pretty Horses

Starring: Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz
Director: Billy Bob Thorton
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 117 Minutes
Release Date: December 2000
Genres: Drama, Romance, Western

*Also starring: Lucas Black, Ruben Blades, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick, Bruce Dern

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

Zzzzzzz. In ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, directed without an ounce of inspiration by Billy Bob Thornton, the title almost says it all. The only possible things to admire in it are all the pretty horses since the human actors, with the possible exception of Matt Damon, deliver mind-numbingly dreary and lifeless performances. The horses look surprisingly average but, nevertheless, manage to upstage the lethargic people in the story. The handsome Rio Grande, as it carves out the canyon between Texas and Mexico, is the only really impressive part of the picture.

Ted Tally's thinly plotted and prosaically written script is based on Cormac McCarthy's novel. Going for the poetic, the script instead achieves the soporific. Fully 45 minutes pass before anything of consequence happens, and, even then, it is nothing memorable. This might be somewhat tolerable if the actors were able to breathe any humanity into their roles, but they read their lines with the emotional impact of a teacher calling the roll.

The story, set in 1949, concerns two young Texans, Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) and John Grady Cole (Matt Damon), who ride their horses across the Mexican border on an adventure. 16-year-old Jimmy Blevins (Lucas Black) joins them briefly before getting into some serious trouble for alleged horse stealing. Lacey and John end up at the large ranch of Don Hector Rocha (Rubén Blades), where they go to work as cowboys.

The owner's daughter, Alejandra (Penélope Cruz), is there for the sole purpose of providing a brief love interest to the story. Damon and Cruz show absolutely no chemistry whatsoever on the screen, and the beautiful Cruz is completely wasted in her part. The romance between John and Alejandra not only doesn't have any sparks, it rarely even smolders.

After Alejandra's aunt warns John, "Here, a woman's reputation is all she has," we cut to the young lovers skinny dipping. But no sooner have we hoped that this thread to the story will take off than it is dropped like a hot potato.

In ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, it is hard to know whom to blame more, the actors, the director or the screenwriter. The acting by Henry Thomas (E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL) would be my choice for the worst part of the production. His lack of energy is so pervasive that it seems to suck the life out of those around him.

Like a candidate facing certain defeat who makes one last campaign swing before losing in a landslide, the movie finally tries for a little drama at the end. The problem is that we have long since lost any interest in the characters. Whether they live or die, we no longer care.

ALL THE PRETTY HORSES runs a long 1:57. It is rated PG-13 for violence and some sexuality and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up. Most kids, however, are going to be bored stiff by the picture.

Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes

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