Monday Movie Review: ‘The Electric Horseman’

HN film critic Amanda Ronan is steadily checking names off her master list of Every Horse Movie Ever Made. Coming in at #60, here’s her review of The Electric Horseman.

From Amanda:

It’s difficult to introduce the lead actress and actor of the next film Being Gluten Free – The Secrets To Living Gluten Free I’ve reviewed to younger generations. Honestly, where would I start? First off, Jane Fonda.

She was a sensual space defender in ‘68.

She was a dissatisfied secretary who took her chauvinist boss hostage in ’80.

And more recently she was J’Lo’s monster-in-law.

And Robert Redford, well, he was the Sundance Kid, Jay Gatsby, a natural baseball player, a reporter who helped reveal the Watergate scandal, and the infamous Johnny Hooker of The

He also made one very Indecent Proposal to Demi Moore… but who hasn’t, really.

His horsey movie pedigree is also good. He was The Horse Whisperer and actually played a horse, voicing Ike in the new Charlotte’s Web.

So what happened when these two superstars met back in 1979? The Electric Horseman was born, directed by Sydney Pollack.

As the movie opens we are introduced to Sonny Steele an all-American cowboy, played by Redford, as he plummets from good-hearted rodeo champion to corporate-sponsored
lackey. He is lit up like a Christmas tree and drunk as a skunk as he flops around the saddle, advertising ‘Ranch Breakfast’ cereal.

After showing up late one too many times, Sonny realizes that his job with AMPco industries and ‘oil baron’ lifestyle is at risk. Watching a stunt double wear his lights and gallop around a
crowded football field full of admiring fans, Sonny says, “That’s not me!”

Corporate goon replies: “They don’t know the difference.”

Steele becomes even more disillusioned in Las Vegas, when he is grilled by reporter Alice Martin, played by Fonda, and forced to go on stage with an injured, drugged Thoroughbred
racehorse. Rising Star’s tendon, in Steele’s words, “don’t look right.”

Fed up with the injustice and “disco magic” of it all, Steele steals the horse. Apparently the tendon injury wasn’t bad enough to prevent a gallop through a casino and on to busy Las Vegas
roadways. AMPco immediately issues a warrant for Steele’s arrest on the charge of grand larceny.

The next morning our drunken cowboy wakes up in a pile of rocks slightly bewildered that a bejeweled horse is standing next to him.

But the damage has been done, and now Steele and Rising Star are on the run. After borrowing an RV from a fiddler known as Gus, they hit the road with AMPco, the law, and Alice
Martin on their heels.

Steele then begins a homeopathic healing process with Rising Star involving a fire, a gunny sack and five or six dozen boxes of eucalyptus leaf tea bags. I’m not so sure this would be
advocated by the American Veterinary Medical Association or how it relates to the injured tendon, but anyway….

Soon hereafter, clad in shiny, black, leather pants, Martin catches up with Steele in a cave and questions his motives for stealing the horse. Steele is tight-lipped though, only confirming that it was not for monetary gain, as he drives quickly away.

AMPco starts an anti-Steele smear campaign claiming he is a drunk and a drug-user, only part of which is true. Meanwhile, Steele addresses the tendon issue, improvising an ice boot at a
road stop.

To set the record straight, Steele sets up an interview with Martin, who is looking very fetching in jeggings and brown knee high stiletto boots. Steele rants and raves about the abuses the
horse has withstood at the hands of the evil AMPco, including but not limited to tranquilizer abuse, blown tendons and sterility. Steele’s final plan is revealed. Rising Star deserves a
better life and Steele is going to make sure he gets it. He is going to turn him loose. “$12 million dollars worth of Thoroughbred racehorse will be turned loose in horse heaven.”

But Martin may have been followed because the police are hot on Steele’s tail. With the tendon miraculously healed in two days, him and Rising Star are forced to lead the cops on a Dukes of Hazzard style chase while Martin drives the RV out of town.

Cowboy XC jump… police motorcycle included!

This was a great, old-school chase scene with no CGI graphics, lots of dirt flying and cars flipping. Rising Star gets a witch hazel leg rub for his gallant efforts, Steele gets some stew and
a good night’s sleep, and Martin gets a reporters dream, exclusive coverage. So begins the cross country trek to horse heaven, which as it turns out, is in Utah.

Awkward “I haven’t really bathed in a week and we’re both wanted by the law” romance ensues.

With things getting a bit complicated, Alice Martin has some cleaning up to do. For one, she has to call off the media and police frenzy she has secretly set-up at Steele’s final destination,
Rimrock Canyon. Unable to reach a phone, she warns Steele. Steele insists he is carrying on with his plan regardless.

Will Steele be arrested? Will Rising Star get to live the good life with a herd full of Mustang mares?

You’ll have to watch and see!

I wanted to give this movie 4 Golden Horseshoes, but honestly the main plot line of setting loose an OTTB with a blown tendon into a herd of wild Mustangs is just absurd. Still, for the
funny lines, the chic seventies clothes, the Willie Nelson soundtrack, Robert Redford’s feathered bangs, and for one very important moment that even the movie Hidalgo forgot (hint: it’s in the last 15 minutes of the film) I give this movie a solid 3.

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