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All the Pretty Horses

Director:Billy Bob Thornton
Writer:Ted Tally
Miramax; PG-13; 112 minutes
Cast:Penelope Cruz, Matt Damon, Lucas Black, Henry Thomas

Billy Bob Thornton helmed a massive Western epic that clocked in at nearly four hours. Maybe it was a disaster. Maybe it was brilliant. We'll probably never know, for Miramax editors halved Thornton's vision down to a two hours. The missing weight shows. A book's worth of events happen (it's based on Cormac McCarthy's best-selling novel), but they arrive out-of-breath and leave in a hurry.

All the Pretty Horses begins with sturdy Western boys John Cole and Lacey Rawlins (Matt Damon and Henry Thomas). They leave failing ranchlands to seek excitement in Mexico. The would-be cowboys team up with a loose pistol played by Lucas Black. John finds excitement in the shapely form of his boss's daughter, Alejandra (Penelope Cruz). Perhaps only those who saw Woman on Top will find this pair difficult to swallow, but Penelope Cruz and Matt Damon keep any interpersonal chemistry well hidden.

A modern Western requires more innovation and/or outright ruggedness. Characters move and talk, but rarely convince. The cinematography is uneven at best. Thornton's Sling Blade packed a compressed wallop, while All the Pretty Horses has been lost in its translation from four hours to 112 minutes.

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