"All The Pretty Horses" looked to be one of the bigger films of the 2000 Christmas season, but things didn't go quite as planned. There was a suprising amount of press about how the film reportedly had to be cut down from a much lengthier running time (some say 4 hours, but I could easily it coming in at a good 2:45 to 3). Those who've seen the film seemed to be heavily one way or another - loved it or hated it. Personally, I'm one of the few who seemed to fall in the middle in their opinion.
The film stars Matt Damon and Henry Thomas as John Grady Cole and Lacey Rawlins, two riders who head into Mexico, thinking that they'll find better days there. They're followed by a young rider Jimmy Blevins (Lucas Black), and the two think he's stolen the horse he rode in on. Soon enough (or, sure enough), the three get into trouble for allegedly stealing horses and end up working on the farm of Don Hector Rocha.
Once there, the two work as cowboys. John falls in love with Rocha's daughter, the beautiful Alejandra(Penelope Cruz), and you know that cinematic romances like this one always end up in trouble. The two riders even end up in jail before it's all over. It feels like there's more to the story - and there probably is, but it all ended up on the editing room floor - probably in an attempt to get the film to a running time that could play the most times a day.
But, while there's a bit too much of a rushed feeling to some of the movie, there's also moments that don't push the plot forward that are let to go on longer than they should have. What seems to have suffered the most is the romance, which seems like a second thought in the scheme of all things "Pretty" - it's really the most poorly developed aspect of the picture. Speaking of pretty, Penelope Cruz gives another wonderful performance - not only is she beautiful to look at, but she seems so natural and full of life whether in this role, or any other. It's unfortunate that she couldn't have been a bigger part of the film.
And, there's always the scenery. This is one of those films where the camera could have probably been pointing in any direction and the scenery would still be just as beautiful. But, of course, a movie can not exist on scenery alone - this is why it's so unfortunate that "Horses" feels as fractured as it does, because the performances really aren't bad at all. Although the film was edited down to make it more commercial, it actually makes the picture suffer, as it becomes apparent that this just isn't a story that can comfortably fit in just under 2 hours.
Overall, I certainly didn't hate it, but it's a bit of a dissapointment as the elements seemed to exist to form a better, fuller and more dramatic picture. Not awful, but just not memorable, either.
VIDEO: Although not completely flawless, this 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer from Columbia/Tristar certainly looks so gorgeous so often that the smaller flaws are hardly irritating. The image quality is certainly helped along though, by the fact that the scenery in the film is so stunning that the filmmakers could have probably pointed the camera in any possible direction and gotten a wonderful looking image. Anyways, sharpness and detail are often terrific, although a scene or two appeared slightly soft, possibly by intention.
Some little flaws were visible here and there on occasion throughout the movie, although none of them really were large enough to distract. There were some minor print flaws in the form of some slight speckles and marks, but these seemed to be more isolated towards the begining of the movie. A couple of scenes appeared a tiny bit grainy, as well. Although I noticed a trace or two of pixelation, there wasn't any edge enhancement or other flaws to be found.
Colors appeared accurate, natural and well-saturated. Some of the scenes weren't quite as visually bright or bold as others, but as a whole, the image quality offered a fine representation of the film's cinematography. Although not without a few problems, it's a pretty wonderful looking film.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and although many scenes are dialogue-driven, there are some moments that really provide a highly enjoyable sound experience. Good examples are the sounds of horses running through during the opening credits, which sounds so realistic that it sounds like they're running through the room as well as a solid storm about 23 minutes in.
Surrounds do come in nicely when necessary. Some stronger, effective use happens during the film's more intense sequences, but there's also some very nice, subtle ambient sounds that convince the viewer of the outdoor surroundings. The rather pleasant, lovely western score rolls through the room every so often, sounding warm and clear. Dialogue occasionally seemed a tad bit rough, but usually came through naturally.
MENUS:: Tristar provides a fine main menu, with subtle background animation and a bit of the score playing.
EXTRAS: Unfortunately, there is no deleted footage included with the DVD. All we get here is production notes in the insert, and filmographies as well as trailers for "Horses", "Dogma", "All About My Mother" and "Legends Of The Fall".
Final Thoughts: Maybe worth a look as a rental, although those who aren't in the mood for a slow moving picture would probably be best skipping it. Tristar gives the film a fine presentation with strong audio/video quality, but almost nothing in the way of extra features. And, for those who have seen the movie and enjoyed it, the DVD does a fine job at presenting the film.
Personally though, I believe that if additional footage exists, I don't see much of a reason why it shouldn't have been included here.