all the pretty horses(2000)
director: billy bob thornton
matt damon, penelope cruz, henry thomas

. The trailer is selling Billy Bob Thorntonís directorial debut, All the Pretty Horses, as a steamy, doomed romance kind of flick, with meaningful, desirous glances passing between Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz like electron charges. There should, in this case, be some kind of case brought under truth-in-advertising laws.

Thorntonís movie, vaguely based on the well-regarded novel by Cormac McCarthy, is actually a western, albeit one of the lyrical, post-John Wayne variety. Set in Texas and Mexico just after WW2, it follows Damon and his best buddy (Henry Thomas of E.T.- The Extraterrestrial fame, grown up and exuding more screen presence than Damon) as they sneak away from their hometown to look for work on the mammoth cattle ranches south of the border. They hook up briefly with a jittery, trigger-happy teen runaway, an encounter that provides the sole seed of real drama in the film.

They prove themselves natural ranch hands in one, strivingly poetic sequence where they saddle-break a string of wild mustangs. And, yes, Damon has his forbidden romance with Cruz, the daughter of the ranch owner; a dramatically inert plotline that only serves to motivate his depthless character through the brutal arrest, the back-road execution, the Mexican prison, the knife-fight and the railway station reunion that absentmindedly constitute the filmís listless storyline.

Thornton, a character actor, gives the best speeches to the secondary roles in the film, leaving Damon to act with his glittering wall of teeth, Penelope Cruz through hyperactive eyelashes. A two-bale oater that kicks up a lot of pretty dust and leaves you staring hard at a lot of nothing.