Tuesday, 4 August 2015

No.223 : Wild Horses

Wild Horses at the IMDb

 Robert Duvall wrote, directed and starred in this contemporary western and had his wife cast in the lead - so is this a showcase for his undoubted skills or a dull vanity project that merits its IMDb score of 4/10?

Duvall plays an ageing Texan rancher who bears the weight of secrets of the past. His gay son’s lover disappeared 15 years previously and a new lady Texas Ranger is keen to reopen the case. What she unearths starts other family skeletons to be rattled from the closet and something has to give.

The film opens in flashback and we’re not clear how the boy died, only that Duvall was there at the time. An undercurrent runs throughout the film that he may have been killed die to redneck intolerances to homosexuality but they seemed keen to skirt round the issue with only passing references to James Franco’s character being gay, and there weren’t any love scenes for him or discussions on his situation. It did shine through that Duvall was the screenwriter as it almost seemed like an old fashioned ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ when the film was crying out for the prejudices to be explored. Still he did duff up some homophobes in a bar, so that’s all right then.

Duvall’s wife Luciana isn’t convincing as the no-nonsense Ranger who smells a Duvall shaped rat and sets her sights on him. English clearly isn’t her first language and her delivery is one note and emotion free. She does get a couple of action scenes, including a low rent car chase, but her part is thin. Her deductions don’t always ring true, but to be fair she says hello to Duvall and straight away he has the hit men on her - not exactly the subtle approach!

Other plot threads that get exposed but not necessarily resolved include corrupt policeman who are dealing drugs with border crossing Mexicans and the paternity of their Mexican looking friend who has lived with them for years but definitely not the result of Duvall getting jiggy with the staff.

The cast was impressive but they get nothing much to do. Josh Hartnett is wasted as the second son and I find it hard to remember any meaningful scene he took part in. The usually good James Franco has nothing to work with in what should have been a good and conflicted character. He seemed nonplussed at his boyfriend disappearing and his reaction at the eventual resolution was muted at best.

I didn’t buy into the dialogue either with lots of improbably moving and articulate speeches being utter by characters who were meant to be red necks or 'good old boy' type farmhands. Duvall talks real slow, as is his way, but he lacked the gravitas and deep rooted resentment that his character was supposed to demonstrate.

Overall this was a wasted opportunity. They had a great cast and locations and a potentially interesting plot, but what was delivered was a flat and wordy borefest that I’ve largely forgotten already.

‘W’ Score - 10/23
Best Bit - Rednecks don’t read the script and start a bar fight

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