PSIPOOK | reviews | hidalgo


  Hidalgo (Ocean of Fire)
Adventure/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/135mins
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson
Director: Joe Johnston
Touchstone Pictures

One of the big marketing points of Hidalgo is that it is based on the real story of a Wild West cowboy action figure, Frank T. Hopkins, who rode his faithful nag Hidalgo in all sorts of long-distance races and carried despatches across Injun country in his spare time. The maker’s claim that it is based on a real story is fair and unarguable in that it was culled from Hopkins’ autobiography. Be aware: ‘real story’ is not the same as ‘true story’, and the autobiography has lately been proven a crock of fiction.

Hidalgo is an old-style adventure yarn. Hopkins who is half Sioux and who is played by Viggo Mortensen, the sultry sword slinger and closet king in Lord of the Rings, witnesses the infamous massacre of Wounded Knee and in disgust joins Barnum and Bailey. What else do you do after an experience like that?

As a logical consequence, Hopkins is invited to Saudi Arabia to join the prestigious Ocean of Fire race across three thousand miles of desert. The Arabs have thoroughbred horses whose pedigrees go back generations and Hidalgo is only half Arab, and Hopkins is only half white or half Sioux, so they can’t be that good, can they? Issues pop out of the sand and then stick their heads right back in.

Only, of course, they are that good, and they tackle the bandits, the rogues, the assassins, the dastardly sheiks, the seducing princesses and, worst of all, the evil Brits to … Well, you’ll just have to guess the outcome.

In the process, Hopkins rescues a damsel from a harem and suffers the threat of castration. Even Indiana Jones didn’t have to face that particular peril.

To quibble is unfair. The story and action are pacey and rooted in a more innocent time of film making. Errol Flynn would have looked great in this role and, come on, when was the last time you saw a film when the hero turned down the advances of a attractive woman because he had a horse to get back to?

Review by Chris Page

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