Dear Robert Duvall,
What the hell did I just watch? I know you’ve written and directed before, and my understanding is that even if your films aren’t great, they’re generally watchable. So what the hell happened with Wild Horses? This muddled, incoherent mess of a film seems like your personal attempt at creating your own Rifftrax bait, but even that feels like it’s giving you too much credit, as that would require a certain amount of intent to create something so bafflingly awful.
The plot is a tangled mess of threads that never quite come together. Ostensibly, it seems to be about a cold missing persons case with your character in the center of the intrigue, but the Texas Ranger who investigates your case seems like she’s off on a bizarre drug trafficking tangent for the majority of the runtime. Meanwhile you and your family have personal revelations about family and acceptance that mean nothing to the audience because we’ve never gotten a chance to know them as characters. The emotional through line seems to be in your character’s trying relationship with his gay son, but it never seems as if your character learns any sort of acceptance, nor does the son end up in a position to forgive his father’s faults, nor should he in these circumstances. So that begs the question: If no characters are going to achieve an arc of some kind, then what is the point of the film?
Furthermore, this appears like it was shot by the same cinematographer that did Birdemic. The shots are amateurishly framed and often are too close or too far away to effectively convey anything substantive to the audience. The editing is scattershot, wildly shifting between scenes of varying tones and never resting long enough on one of the many divergent plot threads to give the audience any sort of grounding in reality.
And don’t even get me started on the acting. Populating your film’s minor roles with amateur actors is one thing, but giving them all prominent speaking roles when none of them seem capable of clearly enunciating a phrase without repeating their half-forgotten lines is quite another. Casting your non-actress wife as the Texas Ranger, the film’s primary antagonist (maybe?), is just painfully obvious nepotism as she mumbles her way through every scene. And all the amateurs are only further highlighted by casting yourself, James Franco, and Josh Hartnett in leading roles. You are all decent actors, and even though your direction leaves a lot to be desired, at least Franco and Hartnett are visibly trying to make the material work.
In short, Mr. Duvall, you have made a horrible movie that should become legendary in how horrific it turned out to be. I desperately want the guys over at Rifftrax to tear this film a new one, because that is the only way anyone other than you will get any amount of enjoyment out of it. Given how little publicity this flop has gotten, that may be the only way anyone will get up the drive to see it. In any case, enjoy your vanity project, Mr. Duvall. The rest of us sure as hell won’t.
Pretentious Best Friend
So, my faithful audience… Think Rifftrax should make a riff of this? Would that actually get you to watch it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.