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ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (PG-13)
Miramax/Columbia
Official Site

Director: Billy Bob Thornton

Producers: Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Salerno

Written by: Ted Tally; from the novel by Cormac McCarthy

Cast: Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Lucas Black, Penelope Cruz, Ruben Blades, Robert Patrick, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Miriam Colon, Bruce Dern, Sam Shepard

Rating: out of 5


I disliked ALL THE PRETTY HORSES. I knew I would. I took a strong misliking to the book. Billy Bob Thornton's faithful realization of the story of John Grady Cole is a Christmas present for those who celebrated Cormac McCarthy's novel. If you are among that number, see the movie and enjoy yourself. You need read no further.

ALL THE PRETTY HORSES is ostensibly the coming-of-age tale of young John Grady Cole (Damon), who, in 1949, with his best pal Lacey Rawlins (Thomas) rides off in search of the only life he's ever wanted-that of a cowhand. See, Cole's grandfather has just died, and his mother has inherited the spread. Eager to get as far away from the money-losing, windswept West Texas ranch as fast as she can, Mom is selling the place. Cole tries to get his father (Patrick) to talk her out of it, but Dad has been broken by World War II and their subsequent divorce, and is loath to intervene. A sympathetic local lawyer (Shepard) tells Cole his chances of reclaiming the ancestral property are nil.

What's a boy to do? Well, if you're John Grady Cole, you pack up your old kit bag, collect your best buddy, saddle up the horses, and ride off across the Rio Grande into a country (Mexico) and a state (adulthood) you don't know shit about, to be a cowhand. Why? Near as I can figure, it's a case of a monumental sense of entitlement: My daddy and his daddy and his daddy before him lived this life, and by God, I'm entitled to it, too. Both movie and novel lament for a way of life whose loss was not the tragedy that Thornton and McCarthy would have us believe, and that's the fatal weakness of both versions.

Before they can even get into Mexico good, Cole and Rawlins meet up with trouble, in the person of Jimmy Blevins (Black), a young boy riding a horse that may or may not be his, and sporting a Colt pistol almost too big for him to heft. Blevins leads them into some entanglements with the law, but they separate from him and wind up working as cowhands on the expansive ranch of Señor Rocha (Blades). Cole quickly falls in love with his new boss's daughter, Alejandra (Cruz), and they begin an affair. Then one morning, rurales show up, handcuff Cole and Rawlins, and take them to jail, where they re-encounter Blevins. What follows is a tale of rough justice; nature, red in tooth and claw; bittersweet young love; more rough justice; and some sadder-but-wiser reflecting.

The movie's good points are few, but I must mention the fine performance by Henry Thomas (probably best known as the little boy in E.T.) letter-perfect in looks, attitude, and accent. One of the more interesting film trends of the year 2000 has been the increased attention to the job of the food stylist. I was dying for Mexican food after watching several meals during this movie. Easily the best scenes of the movie were those of Cole's encounters with justice, contrasting Mexican justice, in the person of the Captain (an excellent Julio Oscar Mechoso) and American justice, in the person of the Judge (an equally excellent Bruce Dern).

But the bigger part of the movie consists of a real wrong premise, the intrusive, "big country"-style Western score, and all-pervasive boredom.

-Roxanne Bogucka, an Action Grrl!

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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