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The 35% movie that maybe originally was a minor classic?

All the Pretty Horses is directed by Billy Bob Thornton and adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel of the name name by Ted Tally. It stars Matt Damon, Penélope Cruz, Henry Thomas & Lucas Black. Marty Stuart scores the music and Barry Markowitz photographs it. Plot finds Damon as John Grady Cole, a young cowboy who travels with his best friend, Lacey Rawlings, from Texas across the border into Mexico. It's a journey that sees acquaintances come and go, love blossom and the harshness of the world become all too real to such young eyes.

A big financial disaster for Columbia Pictures and Miramax Films who lost nearly $40 million on the film. Serves them right I say, for Thornton's original cut was a long epic piece thought to be around three and a half hours in length. But good old Harvey Weinstein demanded drastic cuts to be made and Thornton had to trim it to just nearly two hours in running time. That's a lot of story gone astray, and boy does it show, no wonder Damon himself bitterly commented that to lose 35% of your movie ultimately leaves you with a completely different film. It's such a shame because although it's now a film chocked with flaws and flow problems, one can see that in its original cut there had to be at worst an involving rites-of-passage story.

So what are we left with? Well it's certainly not a donkey. It drips with period atmosphere and comes resplendent with a poetic beauty thanks to Markowitz's photography. Stuart's score too has the tone absolutely right, blending the old feel of the West with evocative arrangements for the more tender moments involving the protagonists: and there are tender moments, notably between Cole (Damon youthful but not really exuding a naivety for the age of the character) & Rawlings (Thomas effective and dominating his scenes). That the crucial relationship between Cole and Alejandra Villarreal (Cruz weak and lacking believability for the romantic strand) is barely formed can be laid at Weinstein's door. So too can the fact that a number of characters file in and out with blink and you miss them parts, sad when it's the likes of Robert Patrick and Sam Sheperd; and tragic in the case of Bruce Dern's judge; the latter of which is a crucial character in the final quarter but gets about three minutes screen time. Madness. Star of the movie is Black, who as young ruffian Blevins, manages to convey a deep sense of vulnerability. It's a critical role, one that affects the main character's lives, and thanks to Black's spirited performance we anxiously await what fate has in store for the lovable rogue.

So much good to sample, then, even if it feels like going out for a three course dinner and finding the main course is no longer available. It's hoped that one day we may get a directors cut from Thornton, only then you feel will All the Pretty Horses be revealed as a potential thoroughbred. 6/10

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