Zzzzzzz. In ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, directed without an ounce of inspiration
by Billy Bob Thornton, the title almost says it all. The only possible
things to admire in it are all the pretty horses since the human actors,
with the possible exception of Matt Damon, deliver mind-numbingly dreary and
lifeless performances. The horses look surprisingly average but,
nevertheless, manage to upstage the lethargic people in the story. The
handsome Rio Grande, as it carves out the canyon between Texas and Mexico,
is the only really impressive part of the picture.
Ted Tally's thinly plotted and prosaically written script is based on Cormac
McCarthy's novel. Going for the poetic, the script instead achieves the
soporific. Fully 45 minutes pass before anything of consequence happens,
and, even then, it is nothing memorable. This might be somewhat tolerable
if the actors were able to breathe any humanity into their roles, but they
read their lines with the emotional impact of a teacher calling the roll.
The story, set in 1949, concerns two young Texans, Lacey Rawlins (Henry
Thomas) and John Grady Cole (Matt Damon), who ride their horses across the
Mexican border on an adventure. 16-year-old Jimmy Blevins (Lucas Black)
joins them briefly before getting into some serious trouble for alleged
horse stealing. Lacey and John end up at the large ranch of Don Hector
Rocha (Rubén Blades), where they go to work as cowboys.
The owner's daughter, Alejandra (Penélope Cruz), is there for the sole
purpose of providing a brief love interest to the story. Damon and Cruz
show absolutely no chemistry whatsoever on the screen, and the beautiful
Cruz is completely wasted in her part. The romance between John and
Alejandra not only doesn't have any sparks, it rarely even smolders.
After Alejandra's aunt warns John, "Here, a woman's reputation is all she
has," we cut to the young lovers skinny dipping. But no sooner have we
hoped that this thread to the story will take off than it is dropped like a
In ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, it is hard to know whom to blame more, the actors,
the director or the screenwriter. The acting by Henry Thomas (E.T. THE
EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL) would be my choice for the worst part of the production.
His lack of energy is so pervasive that it seems to suck the life out of
those around him.
Like a candidate facing certain defeat who makes one last campaign swing
before losing in a landslide, the movie finally tries for a little drama at
the end. The problem is that we have long since lost any interest in the
characters. Whether they live or die, we no longer care.
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES runs a long 1:57. It is rated PG-13 for violence and
some sexuality and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up. Most
kids, however, are going to be bored stiff by the picture.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes