ALL THE PRETTY HORSES
A Lost Honor Regained
Release Date: December 25, 2000
Audience: Teenagers & adults
Runtime: 116 minutes
Distributor: Miramax Films
Director: Billy Bob Thornton
Executive Producer: Sally Menke & Jonathan Gordon
Producer: Robert Salerno & Billy Bob Thornton
Writer: Ted Tally
Address Comments To:Bob & Harvey Weinstein
8439 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone: (323) 822-4100
Seeking a little piece of heaven here on earth, John Grady Cole (Matt Damon) finds himself disinherited from the family ranch in Texas. His search south of the border, however, assaults him with a little bit of Hell on earth! Can a man in the midst of this maintain his honor? And, the honor of the woman he loves?
Opening with breath-taking scenery and captivating music, this 20th century western exalts the virtue of the homespun values of honesty and purity, but how to maintain these values amid the passions and storms of life is another question. Loyalty to one’s friend and one’s word is something to live and die for in the movie. Just how deep this loyalty runs, however, is determined by each individual’s willingness to set aside his or her personal desires. Passionate romance is ultimately sacrificed to regain a lost honor.
The story begins with John Grady Cole and his sidekick with their heads propped up on rocks, contemplating what happens after death. Their brief theistic debate about heaven suggests a relativistic conclusion that, “You can believe whatever you want.” At which, Cole believes that heaven on earth is the truth of it and running the West Texas family ranch is about as close as he’d ever get! This dream, however, is shattered when, upon his grandfather’s death, his mother inherits the spread. Her divorce from Cole’s father has placed her in the arms of another man, leaving Cole disinherited from any portion of the ranch. Cole, however, stays committed to his quest of heaven on earth, even if he has to leave his homeland and go to Mexico to stake out his own claim.
So, Cole sets out with his loyal friend across the Rio Grande River. These two good-ole’-boys soon run into a not-so-good young boy. A sharp-shooting, 16-year-old horse thief seeks safe haven with them as he flees from an abusive stepfather. Their compassion for this wounded pup introduces more trouble into their lives than they could have ever anticipated. When the boy loses his horse in a thunderstorm, they try to help the boy retrieve his horse from the Mexican marauder who found the horse, but the boy kills the man, and they later share the blame for it. They remain loyal to the boy, however, because he’s “an American” and that makes them and him family. Loyalty demands it!
When the law tracks down the boy, he separates from Cole and his partner so as to spare their lives. Mexican lawmen take the boy down one path, and the Cole team head downstream. There these two cowboys join up with the cattle drive, belonging to the wealthiest rancher in Mexico. His delicious daughter just happens to be riding along, too, and Cole develops a thirst for this Mexican margarita. Taking up residence on the 27,000 acre ranch, these two cowboys prove their muster by breaking 16 mustangs in four days, alcohol included. This not only gains the respect of the ranch hands, but also the attention of both the wealthy rancher and his seductive daughter. The father then draws upon Cole’s knowledge of horse breeding of quarter-horses, but does not anticipate Cole’s interest in breeding with his own daughter.
The girl’s aunt, however, understands what’s happening. Though the father probes the reason Cole came to Mexico, Cole lies about their involvement with the troubled teenager who is now in jail for murder. The consequences of lying soon come to visit Cole, but his spiral downward is quickened by the girl’s seduction. Her aunt appeals to Cole to maintain the girl’s virginity, and her honor. Touting the traditional values of being supervised when they should be together, the aunt obtains from Cole his word to guard the girl’s reputation, for, after all, that’s all a girl has in the end. In rebellion to her aunt, the girl shows up at his bedroom door asking to enter. Faithless to his word, Cole promises the girl he’ll do whatever she asks, which leads to whatever immoralities she desires. The obligatory fornication and nudity follows.
A suspecting father soon puts his daughter on a plane for Mexico City to her mother. Cole’s loyal friend tries to reason with Cole, begging him to get this girl out of his heart, but Cole is addicted to her now, justifying it with the comment, “Some things are not reasonable.” Within days, Cole and his loyal friend are handcuffed and carried off by Mexican lawmen who have found “a reason” to connect them with the troubled teenager who earlier murdered the Mexican. Since there is no capital punishment, on the way to the penitentiary, the boy is executed in a field. The rest of the movie details Cole’s prison experiences and what happens to him, the girl and his friend. Eventually, Cole and the girl regain their honor, but just barely.
All the pretty horses remained the same as, throughout the movie, the humans changed their colors only in the end to regain a measure of their luster. The closing song, then, trumpets that treasure of homespun values.
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES looks great and will keep the interest of most viewers, though the story is a little bit overdone. Also, the acting is generally excellent throughout the movie.
Spiritually, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES takes some side roads but it eventually extols a mild moral worldview by demonstrating some consequences for fornication and lying and by promoting the values of loyalty, keeping your word, telling the truth, and maintaining a good reputation morally (and sexually). The movie also slightly promotes patriotism and love of American liberties and justice. It also presents romantic passion as a justification for abandoning one’s values, though a thinking person would see the pain that results from such immorality in this movie. The cowboy talk makes the 50 plus obscenities and profanities less obtrusive. The violence slowly increases in rate and intensity, culminating late in the movie with a bloody stabbing in prison. Beatings and an execution are also implied. The strongest immorality depicted in the movie is reserved for several acts of fornication and some nudity.
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES looks great and will keep the interest of most viewers, though the story is a bit overdone. Also, the acting is excellent throughout the movie. Spiritually, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES takes some side roads, but it eventually extols a mild moral worldview by demonstrating some consequences for fornication and lying and by promoting loyalty, honesty, trustworthiness, and maintaining a good reputation morally (and sexually). The movie also slightly promotes patriotism and love of American liberties and justice. Accompanying this worldview, however, are some sexual situations, nudity and many mild obscenities