All The Pretty Horses


Directed by: Billy Bob Thornton
Written by:Ted Tally
Starring: Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Penelope Cruz, Lucas Black, Ruben Blades
Released: May 10, 2001
Grade: B

John Grady Cole (Damon) and Lacey Rawlins (Thomas) have set off from their home in Texas in search of adventure.  John’s father has just passed away and left his land to his estranged wife who intends to sell the property.  Looking to make a new start, the two come across Jimmy Blevins (Black), a young boy who is running from troubles of his own.

In Mexico, they meet the powerful and wealthy Rocha (Blades) who owns many thousand acres and has a proud heritage in breeding horses.  Offering John and Lacey work, the two enthusiastically accept and soon develop respect amongst the townsfolk - usually a tough job for Americans.

Things change though when John falls for Rocha’s beautiful daughter, Alejandra (Cruz).  Rocha will only have the best for his daughter and John Grady Cole is not a worthy enough man.  Framing him of a crime he didn’t commit, John winds up in jail and torn from Alejandra.  His life is no longer about love but about learning to survive the brutality of the penitentiary.

After a nasty attack from an inmate in the mess hall, John thinks his life is over but amazingly he is spared and released.  Alejandra pleaded with her father to set John free and he agreed but on one condition - Alejandra must never see John again.

All The Pretty Horses spent an eternity in post-production as a result of Billy Bob Thornton’s original cut clocking in at over 4 hours.  Having heard the film was in development, I tried to track down a copy of Cormac McCarthy’s novel and finally found it in a bookshop in Tasmania in March 2000.  It’s taken 14 long months to finally see Ted Tally’s adaptation of a book I much enjoyed.

The film’s fundamental problem stems from perhaps its original length - events do not flow well and important scenes are rushed and overlooked.  As a result, it’s hard to get emotionally involved in what is supposed to be a tragic love story in the vein of Romeo and Juliet.  The final fifteen minutes were dreary and tedious which is never a good impression to leave on a departing audience.

Billy Bob Thornton is rumoured to be releasing the full 4 hour version on DVD and I am curious to see if it does improve the current product.  Until then, we are left with an inferior version that despite top marks for acting and direction, doesn’t meet expectations.  Still, with The Mummy Returns the other choice on offer this week, All The Pretty Horses looks a more attractive proposition.