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Hidalgo (2004)

  Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: John Fusco
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Zuleikha Robinson, Omar Sharif
Links: Hidalgo on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Book
Genre: Based on True Story

This movie gets: 3.00 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 179th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"This ‘sand man’ really WILL send you to sleep" - a review by mino

Sorry, I'm not a horse person. I know that horse people get very nasty when people make statements like this, because horse people are a peculiar breed who can see no possible reason that anyone else would choose not to be a horse person. But then, horse people are very weird indeed, so let's ignore them, shall we?

If you're a horse person, you'll probably love Hidalgo. If you're not, there's a fair chance that you'll find it about as exciting as watching freshly-painted grass grow and dry at the same time.

The ‘Hidalgo’ of the title is a very special horse, owned by a US cavalry officer named Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) — a ‘good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules’ if ever there was one. Hard on his luck after having some bad experiences in battle, Hopkins becomes a drunkard sad-case in a travelling wild-west sideshow (yes, the first twenty minutes of this movie are almost exactly the same as the first twenty minutes of The Last Samurai (2003), except there are more horses).

Eventually, Hopkins and Hidalgo are roped into heading over to Saudi Arabia to compete in an enormous cross-desert endurance horse race, a race which few competitors survive. Needless to say, there's all sorts of intrigue, pretty scenery, and crazy characters. There's the mysterious but jovial sheikh (Omar Sharif), his beautiful daughter Jazira (Zuleikha Robinson), and the leftover-character-from-Titanic (1997) played to stereotypical stuck-up-English-broad perfection by Louise Lombard.

While Hidalgo contains some fairly entertaining action sequences (as far as they go; action sequences, least of all those involving horses, really aren't for me), the fact is that as soon as you realise ‘oh, it's about a horse race through the desert’, you can pretty much rattle off the screenplay verbatim without knowing any more: twists and turns aren't the movie's strong point. In fact, the one twist that exists is so painfully obvious that you can't help but cringe at the disparity between how clever the filmmakers thought they were being, and how clumsily it comes across.

In fact, ‘clumsy’ is a good word to describe Hidalgo (the movie, that is, not the horse): everything about it is clumsy. The romance between Hopkins and Jazira (again, not exactly hard to see coming) is filled with attempted gravitas and importance, but really it's just kind of dull. Likewise, the movie (despite the fact that it's basically just ‘action and thrills in a big sandy place’) tries to make itself somehow more ‘highbrow’ than, for example, The Mummy (1999) by including all these ultra-serious ‘save the environment’ and ‘be nice to people of other races’ moments that are just horribly awkward, is if they were added because of some compulsory be-nice-to-the-environment-and-save-people-of-other-races quota imposed by the studio or something.

Add in some truly awful attempts at comedy (the fight scene in the bar, for example), and the fact that the makers of Hidalgo have not yet realised that the old ‘cut to a staged reaction shot from the horse when something funny or romantic happens’ trick hasn't been funny since the last episode of Mister Ed went to air — even though the last episode of Mister Ed went to air on the 11th of May 1961, giving the filmmakers nearly thirty-three years to work that one out.

Despite Sharif's rather entertaining turn as the Wild West-loving potentate, Hidalgo is a flat, uninspiring excuse to put ‘that hunky guy from The Lord Of The Rings’ in a movie, give him a reason to look manly, set it against some purty scenery, and wait for the money to roll in. Give it a miss.

mino gives this movie 3 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 26 Mar 2004

"Hey Paul, the race hasn't even started yet..." - a review by pearly

Hidalgo has everything that you could hope for in a movie: horses, a hunky lead actor, sword fights, desert, romance. So why on earth didn't I think it was the best movie ever? Because it wasn't that great, that's why!

Hidalgo is Viggo Mortensen's first big outing since he played that king of men character in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) and the two before it. Based on a true story, it is about Frank Hopkins, a man who, in the late 1800s travelled from the USA to Saudi Arabia to compete in a highly contested horse race with his horse and best friend Hidalgo.

I don't really remember much about Dances with Wolves (1990), but the high-level themes of the two movies seem very similar: animals, desert, bygone eras, honour, native peoples. Given that I didn't enjoy Dances with Wolves, Hidalgo was fighting an uphill battle to impress me, and it didn't manage to get there.

When an entire movie is based around a certain event, and you find yourself about halfway through sitting there feeling like you've already watched a ten hour movie, and the particular event (in this case, the horse race) has not even begun yet, you've gotta worry. Hidalgo is extremely slow and heavy going, and the payoff is nowhere near big enough.

Mortensen has poorly chosen his next role after Aragorn, playing an honourable horse riding type with ties to culture, i.e. a nearly identical role to Aragorn, but set in the real world rather than a fantasy. It's a poor choice not because the movie is drawn out and not particularly interesting, but because of the fact that it is too similar of a role, and is heading towards typecasting him forever. If he were trying to prove his acting ability, he should have chosen something completely different. Of course, in saying this, I'm acting as though Aragorn was Mortensen's first ever gig, which it wasn't, but I think it's pretty safe to say that it took him to the next level in terms of star power, and taking a "safe" role like this is a silly move on his part.

Hidalgo's screenplay is almost too well structured - as though writer John Fusco has balanced each piece of what he considers makes a good story and carefully proportioned it all out. The romance storyline is there, there's some intrigue, a bit of comedy, and so on. But it just doesn't work. Perhaps if Hidalgo had been a good half hour shorter, the prognosis would be different.

I haven't even mentioned the opening "fight" scene, but I'm sure mino will more than make up for that with his review.

pearly gives this movie 3 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 26 Mar 2004

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 3.00
Lowest rating: 3 (by mino, pearly)
Highest rating: 3 (by mino, pearly)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. Howdy naive folk! I am a horse person, I do understand that some people don't know anything about the beauty and intellegence of these creatures, and I don't care, so be it! But to be so disrespectful towards the people who made this movie and put so much efford in it makes me sick! I'm aware that this only was your opinion and I absolutely think that it's good if people reveal their opinion in public, but you did this in such a pathetic way, I admit I feel sorry for you. Not only because of your misinterpretation, but also because you cannot even give your respect to Frank Hopkins, who long before our time has gone through this magnificent and unbelievable adventure. I just hope that there are not many more people on eath, who share your opinion. Be it so, we should ask ourselves how our race has become such an ignorant species. I pray for the Lakota and all native american nations. Hopefully someday they shall be able to roam their lands in freedom and peace again! Hail Frank T. Hopkins and his magnificent Spanish Mustang!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from flucreima on Sun 30 Jan 2005 05:16 #

  2. this film is one of the best i have ever seen i wouldve of givin it a a 5 star film
    this film you could watch over and over again

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from oj on Wed 16 Feb 2005 05:51 #

  3. It was great - i enjoyed it.

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from Leona ( on Thu 24 Feb 2005 21:26 #


    Rating given: 1

    A comment from irish savage on Sat 24 Sep 2005 04:13 #

  5. Great movie,excellent horsmanship,training and acting.*****+

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Gatt Daniela on Wed 26 Apr 2006 02:46 #

  6. I love the horse hidalgo

    A comment from Monkey on Tue 09 Jan 2007 09:52 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 8.00 (5 ratings)

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