What happened after that famous freeze frame? Blackthorn has the makings of being a belated sequel to 1969's Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid but Mateo Gil's Western likes to distance itself from William Goldman's script - this meditative Sam Shepard vehicle is definitely its own movie.
Having supposedly died during a bloody shootout with the Bolivian army twenty years ago, it appears that Butch Cassidy, now going by the name of Blackthorn (Shepard), is alive and well and living a decent life in the salt flats of Bolivia. However, the former outlaw has decided to call time on his ex-pat status and plans to return to America. Making his way home after withdrawing all his cash from the bank (as a satisfied customer and not the robbing outlaw he was - the first of many pokes in the eye of Butch's notoriety), Blackthorn's horse is startled by a gunshot and throws its owner to the floor. As Blackthorn watches his horse and his future disappear into the distance, he locates the perpetrator hiding in the undergrowth - Spaniard Eduardo (Noriega). In an effort to save his life from the livid Blackthorn, Eduardo offers to cut him in on some loot he knows is hidden in a mine. The loot, however, belongs to some mean guys, who are close on Eduardo's tail already. Meanwhile, cop Mackinley (Rea) refuses to believe that Butch died all those years ago and is determined to bring him in…
Okay, so it might have some things in common with George Roy Hill's film - it's a buddy-buddy Western and the plot is basically an extended, if slow, chase sequence - but the tone is completely different. Gone is the chirpy humour as Shepard's Butch is a million miles away from the likeable scamp that was Newman's. However, in the flashbacks, Butch (Headhunter's Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and Sundance (Padraic Delaney) touch on some of the 'original's' wit, with Sundance continually displaying a pessimistic acceptance of his impending doom. But not once does anyone ask 'Who are these guys?'
More a thoughtful, patient Western than its so-called predecessor, when the violence does eventually show up it's all the more explosive; the shootout on the salt flats is not only exciting but beautiful. Perpetual class act Sam Shepard is, as you'd expect, a class act again, taking nothing from Newman's optimism to deliver a weathered and crotchety old man. Noriega is no slouch either.