- Written and Directed by Robert Duvall
- March 17, 2015 (SXSW) / June 5, 2015
A Texas Ranger reopens a 15-year-old missing persons case and begins to uncover dark secrets about a prominent local family.
Wild Horses is the usual everybody is terrible type movie that is all the rage among those trying to make dramatic films these days. The only half decent character is the female Texas Ranger, but she is emotionally damaged herself. To make drama you do not necessarily need everybody to be terrible or most everybody to be emotionally damaged to the point of being barely functional but here we are. I am not saying characters need to be perfect. Yes, they can be flawed but not to the point they are in need of serious therapy.
This film’s saving grace is a quality cast giving good performances. You generally cannot go wrong with Robert Duvall. Here he is Briggs family patriarch Scott Briggs. Briggs is a stern man and a bit of a Bible thumper. He owns a large ranch and is somewhat powerful locally. It is implied how he is drove away his wife.
James Franco is his son Ben. Ben is gay and there is a scene at the beginning of the film where Scott catches Ben with his lover who is the missing person at the center of it all. This is the sole cause of the rift between the two.
Josh Hartnett is his other son KC. KC is the bridge between the two and at times chafes under his father. There is a third son in this story, but he really does not matter to much in the narrative. Seriously. You can be forgiven for forgetting about him.
Angie Cepeda is Maria Gonzales who Scott treats as a daughter. If you do not see where this is going I cannot help you. Terrible religious parent is a philanderer with a love child. How creative!
Luciana Duvall (that’s Mrs. Robert Duvall to you) is Texas Ranger Samantha Payne. She reopens the case that starts it all and learns that the Briggs family was more connected than the files indicate. Strangely though she is a rather minor character. The character comes in only to really stir family tensions.
Wild Horses is not a who done it. We know who did it and probably why. The only question in the film is how it all is going to come out. The thing is the truth is not unraveled by an investigation on Payne’s part but mostly because of a happy accident. Scott and Payne are not going head-to-head in a game of cat and mouse. She suspects but he has everything pretty well under control until she stumbles into a drug deal with one of his people and that causes everything to fall apart.
I thought the ending was a little lazy. Feeling everything closing in Scott decides to make amends for the evils of his life. He goes to the house of the family of Ben’s lover with Ben tagging along and reveals all. Up until this point he is portrayed as trying to keep the family free of scandal-real and perceived-so why confess to a murder which is most definitely a scandal? How will this repair the strained relationship with Ben?
Scott then sits down, the camera fades to black, and you hear a gunshot. This type of finale always strikes me as the result of the script writer painting themselves into a creative corner and needing to end the story. Do you arrest the bad guy or what? How do you make an arrest dramatic and exciting or interesting? It also makes Texas Ranger Payne superfluous. She contributes very little to the story. There was no need for a named law enforcement character. What she accomplished could have been achieved with talk of an investigation. It is mentioned as occurring but with no well developed investigator character.
All the problems in Wild Horses are caused because the dad is homophobic. It’s not because he appears to have connections to local crimes, or he’s just been a terrible father. He hates homosexuals and that is his undoing. Bigotry is what takes him down and for some reason when the walls are closing in he has a change of heart.
Wild Horses has great acting in an okay story. It has good direction but there is nothing really unique here. I’ll give this an if you want.