Now in his 80s, Academy Award-winning actor Robert Duvall clearly hasn’t tired of crusty cowboy roles, having written one more for himself in the multigenerational drama “Wild Horses,” which he also directed.
Duvall plays macho, bigoted Texas ranch owner Scott Briggs, looking for twilight redemption with his three grown sons (including Josh Hartnett), one of whom (James Franco) he kicked out 15 years prior after catching him in the barn in the dead of night with a male ranch hand named Jamie, who subsequently vanished.
A new investigation into Jamie’s disappearance by a determined Texas Ranger (the star’s wife, Luciana Duvall, regrettably stiff) upends Briggs’ careful plans to leave some secrets buried. There’s more than a whiff of John Sayles’ regional melodramas in the patient mix of domestic tragedy, homespun humor and mystery.
But as comfy as Robert Duvall is portraying one more old man facing a reckoning (shades of his masterful “The Apostle”), as a storyteller and director, this time he loses the thread — and our attention — one too many times in a sea of lackluster conversations and unremarkable plot strands.
The best moments showcase Duvall and Franco, formidable stars representing different cultural eras, testing the waters of a father-son relationship bruised by outmoded views of love and sin. There’s genuine hurt and hope in their exchanges, but their power is diluted by the strangely ineffectual, meandering movie around them.
MPAA rating: R for violent images, language.
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.