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Wick's Review

Created Jul 05, 2011 11:20PM PST • Edited Oct 22, 2011 05:32AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    Makes you proud to be an American, a movie like Buck. A documentary about legendary horse trainer Buck Brannaman, the deep wisdom, transcendent techniques and honest humanity of its subject make Buck a profoundly rewarding cinematic experience, horses or no.

    Brannaman deserves more fame than he’s received, even though he was Robert Redford’s man behind the curtain during the making of The Horse Whisperer. That fictional concoction used an enlightened bond between person and beast to tell a transcendent tale, just as Buck is more about overcoming “people problems” than “horse problems.”

    It helps that Buck – the man – is a delightful presence: wryly funny, self-deprecating, stupefyingly skillful, plainly courageous. His backstory of boyhood abuse and rescue unfolds naturally, with not a whit of self-pity. Admirable. His insight into people hits home time and again, resonating with anyone who has encountered challenges in life or who has sought to teach – or parent.

    Who doesn’t that include? No one. Which is why Buck should be seen by loads more people than probably will. Life ain’t fair, but for those of us who’ve seen Buck, it’s a little easier to handle.

  3. Perfect 5.0

    Cowboy Americanus to the Nth degree, “Buckshot” Brannaman was nicknamed, trained and beaten by his father, a Western show trickster. Along with older brother “Smokey,” Buck became a showbiz star before hitting his teens. The movie achieves its deepest resonance revealing his abusive childhood, along with the grace of the adults who rescued him and his brother.

    About the “horse whisperer” thing, apparently Buck’s never actually been seen whispering to a horse. However, he can ride a bronco in moments flat, taming without violence.

    He gets horses to dance. Call him Horse Dancer.

    Viewing their partnership dazzles — throat catchingly beautiful.

    Buck’s life is populated by Westerners straight from central casting.

    • His daughter Reatta and her BFF Nevada ride from Montana to California with her Dad, visiting horse farms and ranches along the way. How do you like those names? Reatta and Nevada – from the ranch house born.
    • Sheriff Johnny France, a white hat wearing lawman, removed Buck and Smokey from their abusive Father, declaring “They’ll be no more of that.” And there wasn’t.
    • Mrs. Shirley, Buck’s foster mother, lovingly teases him, revealing Mother and son as exceedingly well balanced individuals.
    • Betty Staley, dressage luminary, speaks about how Buck’s techniques transformed her approach to training dressage horses.
    • Robert Redford describes Buck’s seminal advice in the making of The Horse Whisperer. Then Buck humorously explains how he had his horse Pep stand in for a failing Hollywood show horse when it came time to shoot the movie’s climactic scene with a then 14 year old Scarlett Johansson.
  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Cinematic glory often comes out of the West. No film is more Western than Buck, not just because it documents the ultimate cowboy, but because it is steeped in the plain spoken verities of the American West, presented in the laconic cadence of authentic Westerners, and comes complete with an honest triumph of good over evil.

    The fact that that triumph involves no violence, in fact rejects violence, makes it all the better, and more interesting to boot.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    Kudos to rookie director Cindy Meehl, who has crafted an ideal biography of an authentic American hero.

  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    Amongst the telling anecdotes: Buck reduces a woman to tears by surmising her life from her horses. Personal power in the field.

  11. Music Great 4.0

    David Robbins’ music strikes an ideal Western note.

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Bow-legged cowboys, big trucks, lonesome roads, and amazing horse feats make Cindy Meehl’s film a visual delight.

  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.2

    Some alarming historical footage of horses being broken is used to contrast the bad old days with Buck’s approach.

  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Gentle 1.5
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.1
  18. Natural 1.0

    Documentaries these days often don’t hold to a 1.0x reality. Buck doesn’t play those games.

    About Buck’s way with horses, Buck properly credits Ray Hunt, along with Tom and Bill Dorrance, the creators of so-called Natural Horsemanship.

  19. Circumstantial Natural 1.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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Oct 21, 2011 8:12PM

Its on NF now…

Jul 6, 2011 6:26AM

Regarding Wick’s Review
Still in theaters, though probably not for long. Kind of movie that will appear on Netflix shortly.

Jul 6, 2011 5:45AM

Regarding Wick’s Review
It’s not available on Netflix. Lame