Unbridled. Unbroken. Unbeaten.
Running Time: 136 minutes
UK Certificate: 12a
Country: United States
Less than a year has passed since we all cheered at a horrendously ginger Tobey Maguire as he romped along the final furlong on Seabiscuit, and already its time for another ambitious period epic named after a horse. And no, before you ask, its not Mr Ed.
Jumping into the saddle this time is Viggo Mortensen, at age 43 something of a late developer on Hollywoods A-list circuit. He was, of course, catapulted into top-bill status by his role as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy but now its make or break time for the perma-stubbled Scandinavian. Does he really have the pulling power and screen presence to hold his own as a serious big-namer now that Pete Jackson and his Hobbits are safely back in the Shire? Hidalgo, a genre-bending western from Jumanji director Joe Johnston, is his chance to shout Yes!. Or at least mumble it as, given his standard method of dialogue delivery, is probably more likely.
Its 1890, and the Vigmeister is Frank Hopkins, a Cowboy whos also part Indian, and gets funny looks for clopping about on the wild, untamed mustang of the title. He was once a hero, but has lately been reduced to drunken makeup-wearing sideshow in Buffalo Bills nightly re-enactment of Wild West derring-do. But life takes a dramatic turn when hes asked (or, rather, told) to sail off to the Middle East and take part in an outrageously dangerous and unnecessarily long (3,000 miles, in fact) desert horse race.
What follows is part Raiders of the Lost Ark, part The Searchers, part Seabiscuit, part The Last Samurai and part Wacky Races but for the most part it works surprisingly well. In-between evading the dirty tricks of his Dick Dastardly-like opponents (thats right they stop ahead of him to lay traps and cheat even though theyre IN FRONT ANYWAY) and narrowly avoiding having his knackers chopped off by an angry Sheikh (Omar Sharif), he even finds time to rescue a semi-attractive Arabian Princess and skirt around the issue of nookie. The romantic stuff never actually comes to much, but theres definitely a bit of flirting going on between him and the horse.
All in all its an enjoyable, if bumpy ride, with some smashing sparingly-used special effects and an entertaining plotline (its based extremely loosely on a true story and thats loosely as in none of this stuff ever happened). As for our friend Mr Mortensen? Well, he doesnt disappoint as the hero and its not his fault that hes totally overshadowed in the acting department (as are the rest of the cast) by the films REAL star. Thats the horse, in case youre wondering.
It's Got: A smack in the face with a shovel.
It Needs: Some lip-balm.
Horsing around, Viggo-style.