"Taking a much-told fable and reinventing it to great success..."

Despite comprising some of the finest and most influential pictures in cinematic history, the Western is relatively untouched in contemporary film, as the genre has become almost antique-like, cinematic royalty not to be tinkered with. There is of course the occasional Western released, such as the recent True Grit remake by the Coen brothers, and Blackthorn can now join that small list, as a film depicting the later years of a notorious Western figure in Butch Cassidy.

Set in Bolivia, we follow the crafty veteran Cassidy (Sam Shepard), a formerly wanted fugitive now calling himself James Blackthorn. Legend has it Cassidy had been killed in a shoot-out alongside his criminal accomplice the Sundance Kid, but he remains alive, living alone whilst conjuring a plan to return to the United States and visit his long lost son.

Yet Blackthorn's past soon catches up with him, as he is tempted into one last adventure alongside Spanish robber Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega), who promises him 25 thousand dollars from the 50 he stole from the mines. Yet due to the circumstances in which Apodaca stole the money, a hoard of Indians are chasing the pair, as well the law enforcement, as Blackthorn attempts to preserve his life as well as his identity.

When taking on the tale of a historical figure rich in cinematic tradition, within the conventional Western genre, there is always going to be a certain level of scrutiny thrown towards director Mateo Gil - but the Spaniard has done the tale justice, taking a much-told fable and reinventing it to great success.

Typical of it's genre, Blackthorn follows a straight-forward and direct storyline, although there are flashbacks implemented throughout, focusing on Blackthorn in his prime, delving into his relationship with the Sundance Kid and Etta Place - the latter the mother to his son. Depicted in these scenes by Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - the flashbacks prove imperative to the picture, as seeing Blackthorn as young, agile and full of confidence enhances the notion that he is now an ageing and more vulnerable man, as his movement into the later years of his life proves to be an emotional sub-plot to the story, and the potential reasoning behind his decision to return home. Blackthorn is not just a story of good guys and villains, but of a man revisiting his past and identity.

Having said this, the flashbacks do have negative implications too, as Blackthorn has a mythic feeling to him, and seeing him as an elderly man adds to the legend that is Butch Cassidy - yet by actually witnessing him when in his criminal element merely devalues his image and the myth surrounding his persona and history.

The performance by Shepard is wonderful, and certainly the film's defining feature as he manages to perfectly encapsulate the spirit and insanity of Blackthorn, of which he became so renowned, with a humbleness and humility that sees Blackthorn grow old graciously. Stephen Rea is also impressive as Blackthorn's past adversary-turned-alcoholic Mackinley.

Shepard's understated performance brings an idleness to Blackthorn which is enhanced by the film's vast landscape setting, adding to the solitary atmosphere emanating throughout, provoking feelings of loneliness and desolation. The landscape is picturesque, and the film is aesthetically terrific during the night time scenes, where it is almost presented in black and white, as the colours are toned down dramatically.

However, despite being a minimalist and pensive drama, the music is somewhat generic and feels too contemporary. In a western you merely want to hear instrumentals representative of the general ambience, such as the famous spaghetti western track we have all heard countless times. But Blackthorn's soundtrack bears a little too much folk music, featuring too many songs with actual lyrics, which tend not to be as atmospheric as a harrowing instrumental would be.

Blackthorn is an enjoyable and meditative production, and is part of the western revival in contemporary cinema, sandwiched between the releases of True Grit and Quentin Tarantino's upcoming Django Unchained. Although amongst rather good company, Gil's picture is more than able to hold its own.