Wild Horses (2015)

(Video on Demand, August 2015)  Let’s be frank: It’s rare to see a film start as unpromisingly as Wild Horses does, with a few scenes acted in such an amateurish fashion as to make us wonder if the actors truly are professionals, or just regular people asked to read lines before a camera.  (It doesn’t help, confidence-wise, to find out that one of the two troublesome actors is writer/director Robert Duvall’s wife, although it makes more sense when you find out that English isn’t her first language.)  Wild Horses never completely recovers from those initial missteps, although it does get more self-assured as it goes on.  The increasing presence of such actors as Robert Duvall, James Franco and Josh Hartnett certainly helps, as does the gradually developed mystery at the heart of the tale.  For Duvall, this may or may not have been a vanity project, but it may remain a misguided one: Wild Horses, at times, feels like another version of the very similar The Judge (also starring Duvall), except with less charm and missing pieces in its narrative tissue.  Some set-pieces are good – I’m thinking about the meeting at a lawyer’s office and the conclusion, both effectively handled.  The rural atmosphere is also comfortable in its own way.  But the rest of the film is hit and miss, with even the good actors not quite managing to lift the film above its pedestrian script.  It’s too bad –for all the respect we can give to a seasoned veteran such as Robert Duvall, his film is too flawed to do him justice.

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