All the Pretty Horses (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Simple story about what was left of the West in 1949.

Matt Damon plays an uncomplicated cowpoke who has no dream grander than running his dad's ranch, but it turns out that his mom sold the ranch to the oil companies and moved to the city with her new husband, so ol' Matt finds himself a stranded buckaroo.

He and a buddy drift down to Mexico looking for work or adventure or both, and along the way they meet up with another kid, who rides with them a piece, before they split up. 'Ceptin this third kid has a mighty fancy horse for such a greenhorn.  It turns out that the third kid and his fancy horse get them into all kinds of trouble later in the story.

While they are working in Mexico, Matt and his buddy are hauled out of their bunks one day, taken to the hoosegow, and tossed in a cell with the third kid. It seems that that third kid is being accused of stealing that horse and killing some people in the process. Matt and his bud tell the Capitan that it was the kid's horse to begin with, but in all likelihood both parties are right. Although it isn't spelled out, it seems that the kid stole the horse, the owner stole it back, and the kid went back to re-steal it.

Time goes on. The Mexican Capitan takes the kid out and shoots him, and then sends Matt and the other guy to a major Mexican calaboose, filled with desperados, orn'ry sidewinders, and no-account varmints. After Matt and his friend are bought out by the rich family that used to employ them, Matt's friend figures he wants no more of Mexico, and heads home. Matt, however, figures things aren't square, because the Capitan kept their horses, and Matt left a purty senorita back on the hacienda, so he heads on back to get the girl and the horse, and maybe teach the Capitan a lesson along the way.

His adventures on his last trip back to the Mexican town present the concluding chapter to the story. Will he get his revenge on the Capitan, will he get the horse, will he get the girl? These questions provide the dramatic structure that holds our attention.

Or not. 


Only a brief flash of skinny dipping from Penelope Cruz. In fact, since it was nighttime, I couldn't see anything at all.
It's a damned slow story filled with laconic Gary Cooper types who just say "yep" a lot. We establish very little emotional involvement with the characters, and the love story between Damon and Penelope Cruz didn't seem to generate much electricity.

There is some impressive western cinematography, but I can't see why it was necessary to spend 45 million dollars on this movie. It would have been a solid made-for-TV show, and that's probably what it should have been because Billy Bob Thornton said his first cut was four hours, which forced him to chop the film in half to meet the Miramax requirements. But it should have been a mini-series made for a couple million dollars, not 45 million. Of course, if the film seemed slow at two hours, you'd have to think that a four hour version would be the wrong way to address the film's greatest weakness. On the other hand, perhaps the film would be easier to watch if each of the scenes had been allowed to develop more fully.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • no significant features

I'm not at all surprised that the film bombed at the box. Cormac McCarthy's prose is filled with meditations on the nature of honesty, truth and honor, or reflections on man's place in nature. It isn't easy to turn that inherently verbal style into something visual, especially when the characters don't even talk much. 

While it seems like a film with a lot of integrity, it also seems to be slow-moving, and very low on energy.

While the movie wasn't quite my cup of tea, Matt Damon impressed me yet again in this movie. He turned out to be about 20 times as good as I thought he would be, and is now one of the better performers of his generation. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: Two and a half from everybody except Ebert, who really liked it. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Maltin 2.5/4, Apollo 65.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 30% positive overall, 25% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.6, Apollo users only 44/100. 
  • With their dollars ... made for a lavish $45 million, it grossed only $15 million domestically, on about 1500 screens.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, it's a C. It's a literary western with all the right pedigree and superior production values but, damn, it's hard to get involved in it.

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