2004 by Tony Medley
“banal” don’t do this justice. In 1890 Frank Tompkins (Viggo
Mortenson) travels to the mideast to enter a horse race with his horse,
Hidalgo, in a storied annual 3,000 mile horse race across the desert.
This film has every cliché you would find in a cartoon. The first 50
minutes ape The Last Samurai (2003), but not nearly as well.
Tompkins feels guilty about the massacre at Wounded Knee, he becomes a
drunk and performs in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, disgracing
himself, oh, you know the drill. Then he’s challenged by the sheikh to
enter the race. Then he gets to the desert and he meets the sheikh (Omar
Sharif), who, naturally, speaks the Queen’s English, and is very, very
civilized, thank you. The sheikh has a daughter, Jazira (Zuleikha
Robinson), who also speaks perfect English, who’s betrothed to a
wicked Arab she hates. Then there’s the conniving English lady, Lady
Anne Davenport (Louise Lombard), living in the sheik’s desert tent
court, who also has a horse in the race and is trying to thwart
Tompkins. If you want to see something really ridiculous, it might be
worth the price of admission to see how perfectly coifed this woman
always appears…living in a tent…in the middle of the desert! She
makes Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain (2003), who was also
perfectly attired and made up, even though she was a North Carolina
hillbilly, look like a piker.
obligatory rescue where our hero, Tompkins, invades the bad guy’s
court, outnumbered thousands to one, but impossibly escapes without a
scratch with the fair damsel, Jazira, in tow. The most publicized scene,
that of Tompkins outracing a desert storm, occurs within the first hour.
Unfortunately, there’s still an hour left to endure. This is slow,
platitudinous, predictable, and boring.
Director Joe Johnston and writer John Fusco were apparently trying to do
was tell a story about a man, Tompkins, and his horse, Hidalgo. This
could have been a touching tale, sort of a 19th Century Seabiscuit.
But there’s so much nonsense thrown in that the man-horse
relationship story gets lost. There’s very little positive I can say
about this film. Even the cinematography seems like déjà vu all over
again. Been there, done that, why waste your money?
March 20, 2004