Overview: A missing person case is reopened after a detective suspects murder may have been involved. Entertainment One Films; 2015; Rated R; 100 minutes.
Lack of Direction: Robert Duvall, James Franco, and Josh Hartnett; okay, good deal, right? That’s what I thought going in (even if the title is plastic, and despite the fact that I don’t care about horses). What I was left with after watching the film was one valuable lesson in filmmaking; Just because you have big names, a good track record, and an understanding of the filmmaking process, that does not mean you can throw anything together and project it onto the silver screen. I don’t want to lean too hard on authorial analysis, but I’ll be damned if this movie doesn’t feel like an old man airing out his grievances with the world. It’s hard to pass through this film without flinching at Scott Briggs’ (Robert Duvall) earnest, ham-handed, straightforward bigotry. It just isn’t functional to any valuable or narrative point, and it doesn’t feel as if Duvall made Wild Horses to help bring any greater understanding to anything.
Favor for a Friend: “Read your goddamn bible,” Scott Briggs trumpets to his son in the presence of his offspring’s intended. Later, some random dude at a cookout emphasizes this bigotry again: “But, I had a couple beers one time with Scott Briggs, and he told me all gays were evil.” Not much is required to establish that Scott Briggs character is homophobic, and of course it would be dishonest to suggest that homophobia should not exist in narrative, but to violently reiterate this sentiment ad nausea accomplishes little. These diatribes are not necessary. I wish this next sentence read, “But not all is lost! The acting saves the downfall of the script,” but that would be a lie. Franco doesn’t emote in the least, Hartnett seems out of his usual war drama element, and Duvall (who wrote and directed) isn’t acting any more than he ever has over the past two decades (once again, he plays grumpy and grizzled). And Luciana Pedraza, with whom the camera is unjustifiably enamored, is sadly out of her element as Detective Samantha Payne. All of these performances play like a favor for a friend (or a wife, as it were).
Dramatically Stagnant: In Wild Horses blunt approach towards its subject of illegal immigration, southern culture, and hatred, Scott Briggs plays like a rancher who is intolerant of his son’s gay lifestyle, and that’s about it. Don’t waste anytime delving for any deeper meaning. You won’t find it. There is no flow, though, as most scenes don’t serve any dramatic function. Even with all of these names connected to it, it’s hard to believe that someone gave Wild Horses the go ahead. The acting is worse than a middle school play, and the editing over the course of the entire filmed product is amateur, or worse.
Overall: This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Even horse fanatics will hate this film.