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MovieMike's Movie Reviews (83)

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All the Pretty Horses 
More Than A 'Pretty' Good Film
3.5/4 stars

Long before there was a 'No Country For Old Men', there was 'All The Pretty Horses'; a masterful western novel also penned by Cormac McCarthy. The film (of the same name) derived from this work, was directed by Billy Bob Thornton, fresh off his success with 'Sling Blade'. Starring Matt Damon as John Grady Cole, and Henry Thomas as Lacy Rawlins; the story centers on these two young cow hands as they journey into Mexico looking for work. Cole, through no fault of his own, has lost his family's farm to debt and feels there is nothing left for him in his home State of Texas. Rawlins, equally unhappy with own circumstances at home agrees to go with Cole. Just prior to crossing into Mexico, the two come across an enigmatic young boy, Jimmy Blevins (Lucas Black), who wants to hook up with them. The back-story he provides is extremely suspect and both Cole and Rawlins are convinced Jimmy is much younger than he claims.

Blevins proves to be trouble for Cole and Rawlins and they split off, eventually finding work at a large, prosperous horse ranch. The owner of the ranch finds an appreciation for Cole's skills with horses and promotes him. At about the same time, Cole is smitten with the Rancher's daughter, Alejandra (Penelope Cruz). Their romantic involvement is not a welcome development by Alejandra's family, and both Cole and Rawlins end up playing a heavy price for it. You'll think you know where this is all leading, but you will be wrong.

In researching the background of this film, I learned that the original cut was almost 4 hours long. The studio forced Thornton to cut the film down to 116 minutes, something he fought rigorously. As a consequence, the film received mediocre reviews; which I found surprising after watching it in the shorter form. I thought Damon delivered 10 times the character that he gave us in 'Good Will Hunting'; and the story adaptation, while no less bleak than the more recent 'No Country...', is a lot more straight forward, understandable, and even displays a glimmer of humanity, despite the pervasive evilness that dogs these characters.

I found the cinematography to be on par with the likes of John Ford's epic works and the music score was more than perfect for the visuals. 'All The Pretty Horses' presents the viewer with a surprising mix of modern (for the 1949 time-frame) and primitive elements. If you saw this film at it's initial release, I humbly suggest you revisit it to see what it has gained in perspective. If you've never seen it, it is more than worthy of your time and effort to do so.

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