Stars: Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz, Henry Thomas, Lucas Black
Reminiscent of big screen Western films of long ago, this one comes chock full of beautiful vistas, elegant steeds, lovely music and, unfortunately, a storyline that drags slower than a West Texas drawl. It’s hard to believe that director Billy Bob Thornton wanted to add another hour to its present two-hour length. I would have preferred that he snapped up the pace in what’s already there. But as far as the look goes this is a very pretty picture and it has a nice gentle feel to it, otherwise.
Set in 1949, we first meet John Cole Grady (Matt Damon) just as he discovers that his grandfather’s West Texas ranch has been put up for sale by his divorced mother. When he can get no help from his luckless father, Grady and best pal Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) decide to head down to Mexico where it’s heard that some ranches are so big you can’t even ride them end to end in a week’s time. They’re sure they’ll be able to find cattle ranching work there and the freedom of a cowboy’s life. Remember this: whenever you hear a character say anything even remotely like ‘hey I got an idea – let’s go to Mexico’, you just know that the road is going to get a whole lot rougher.
Along the way, Grady and Rawlins are followed by a much younger boy named Jimmy Blevins (Lucas Black) who, right off the bat, they’ve decided is a troublemaker and want no part of. But, pretty soon, Jimmy is sharing the road and bonding with the boys and they make a very happy threesome. No sooner do they get to swapping stories, then Jimmy gets into some trouble and disappears while the other two continue deeper into Mexico. They find work on a huge ranch owned by the illustrious Rocha (Ruben Blades) who who has a beautiful daughter named Alejandra (Penelope Cruz) with whom Grady seems to fall instantly in love. And, of course, she can’t take her eyes off him either. Despite Rawlins’ warnings Grady pursues the girl and a heavy affair sets in (although it’s presented more for your imagination than what’s actually on the screen).