By William Wolf

ALL THE PRETTY HORSES  Send This Review to a Friend

A meandering, uneven modern Western, "All the Pretty Horses," details the story of a young Texas rancher who heads to Mexico after the family land is sold from under him. In addition to the buddy with whom he starts off, a nervy youth attaches himself and leads the threesome into more trouble than they ever thought of encountering.

Matt Damon plays John Grady Cole, the lead in this saga, scripted by Ted Tally from Cormac McCarthy's novel and directed by Billy Bob Thornton. Cole's pal, Rawlins is played by Henry Thomas, while the troublesome teenager Jimmy is played by Lucas Black. Ruben Blades is Rocha, the tough rancher who hires Cole, who in turn proceeds to fall in love with Penelope Cruz as Alejandra, the rancher's very protected daughter. It's a relationship made for problems.

Thornton and Barry Markowitz, his director of photography, approach the material as if it were weighty stuff and the film does have an inviting look, particularly the many shots of horses, including the scenes in which Cole and Rawlins expertly break the wild ones. Damon imbues Cole with a dreamy innocence, shared to an extent by his somewhat more realistic buddy. Black does some scene stealing as the crazily gutsy Jimmy, who is all nerve and principle without much sense. The overall theme concerns standing up for one's rights no matter the consequences and is played out in the majesty of the spaces still wide open when the story unfolds, starting in the late 1940s.

But the tale grows tiresome and no real sparks are communicated by Damon and Cruz. It takes a long time to lead the men through their adventures, and neither prison nor impending doom churns much emotion. The old westerns did it better. A Columbia Pictures and Miramax release.


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