By Ron Wells | December 29, 2000

You know, the movies have taught me many lessons. Among them are these three things: ^ 1) When a woman fails to love you back, if you stalk her long enough she’ll come around to your way of thinking. ^ 2) When planning a heist with Michæl Rappaport, never give him power tools, firearms, or the keys to the getaway car. ^ 3) Anytime you leave the U.S. for Mexico, whether to find adventure or escape the law, it will never, ever, EVER end well.
Now, much praise has been upon Cormac McCarthy’s novel, “All the Pretty Horses”. It even won the Pulitzer Prize. Unfortunately, I’ve never read it as too much of my time is wasted upon viewing movies that are bad, mediocre, or just plain failures. LIKE THIS ONE.
The chief problem here is our would-be hero, John Grady Cole (Matt Damon). Basically, he’s a moron. Damon and director Billy Bob Thorton mistake his naiveté for nobility because he’s not just any idiot, he’s an idiot who wants to be a cowboy. Unfortunately it’s 1949, which presumably was not the most optimal year for that profession. Once Cole’s grandfather dies, the boy’s city slicker mom immediately sells off the family ranch in Texas to an oil company. Cole’s brilliant way of dealing with this reality is to talk his best pal Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) into riding off with their horses one night into Mexico where they still have cowboys. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for beginners, someone even younger and dumber than they are, 13-year-old Jimmy Blevins (Lucas Black), joins up with them right before they cross the border. Like any kid that age, he doesn’t know when to let things go or comprehend that most of the trouble he finds himself in he brings upon himself. It would be funny if Cole wasn’t only slightly less stupid than the kid. Lacey pegs Blevins as a disaster in the making immediately, but can’t talk Cole into cutting him loose. Hell, half of Mexico throughout the film attempts to talk sense into Cole, but fail to penetrate the dime-novel delusions of cowboy honor clouding his vision.
Eventually, Cole and Lacey alone find work at an enormous ranch. Cole’s ability with horses quickly makes him employee of the month and the favorite of the wealthy owner of the ranch (Ruben Blades). Seems like our hero’s achieved his goals, right? Don’t worry, soon enough he finds a way to screw it up. Between falling in love with the boss’ daughter (Penelope Cruz) and the repercussions of some earlier trouble with Blevins, that cowboy lifestyle sours fairly quickly. Does Cole finally learn anything from all this? Ummm…no.
Well, it all sure looks pretty, but you get the feeling that Thorton and screenwriter Ted Tally are just as deluded as their protagonist. The director might have hidden it by moving things along, but instead he lingers over every shot long enough for the audience to realize they’re watching a complete retard. They could have also been distracted by a stronger supporting cast, but nearly every Mexican character is horribly underwritten. About the only actors allowed to display any depth and life are Thomas and Black.
I don’t know what any of the filmmakers were thinking. The result of what would appear to be a great deal of effort and some horribly misguided conviction is an extremely slow-moving train wreck. If I wanted to see a bunch of fools wallowing in their delusions, I could go to the Sunset Strip. At least there the price of a movie ticket could buy me at least one drink, and there are a lot more chicks.

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