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Friday Flicks: ‘Tornado and the Kalahari Horse Whisperer’

Where do you find this stuff, Amanda? This week, our fearless film critic Amanda Ronan reviews a movie about a suicidal ex-track star who finds redemption in the form of an Arabian stallion.

From Amanda Ronan:

Riding Tornado (aka Tornado and the Kalahari Horse Whisperer) was filmed in 2009, starring Danny Keogh and Quentin Krog.  It is a South African production, directed and written by Regardt van den Bergh, and inspired by true events.

The movie opens with Pierre, a struggling college student/track athlete who is choking down pills to help control injured ankles.  In his spare time he reads the Bible by the light of his wickedly cool horse lamp.  Where can I get one?

Unfortunately, we are not given much backstory here, but needless to say it was bad enough that Pierre attempts suicide.  The doctor tells him that though they saved his life, he will never run again.   His ankles are completely blown.

Pierre leaves his current course of study, theology, and transfers to a class about horses.  Again, we’re not given much detail here but the class looks fascinating, covering training methods, theory, anatomy, nutrition, reproduction, and even has a “practical” field trip assignment where the students must observe horses in training.

Pierre then meets Tornado, a self-mutilating, out of control Arabian stallion who is headed for the glue factory.

Pierre begins researching ways to save Tornado.  In comes the Kalahari horse whisperer, Barrie Burger.  Pierre secures himself and Tornado a two-month working student position at Barrie’s ranch.

In typical ‘horse whisperer’ style, Barrie is mysterious, looming, and a man of few words.  He starts Pierre out with a list of non-horsey chores, none of which apply to Tornado’s problems… or do they?

Then the real training begins…

Step One:  “Let your silence calm his storm” i.e. move into Tornado’s stall and sit there quietly for a really long time… and don’t forget your sleeping bag.

Step Two: “Dark is a powerful place to form trust” i.e. handwalk Tornado around in the dark for hours until you have no choice but to rely on each other… and don’t forget your sandwich.

Barrie then takes Pierre on a long trail ride, where he introduces him to this dude wearing a very fetching fox head hat.

Fox Head Hat man talks for a good long while.  Unfortunately there are no subtitles, so we have absolutely no idea what is discussed.

Back to training…

Step Three:  “Touch him and listen with the silence between you” i.e. …honestly I have no clue what this one means and I don’t think Pierre does either.  Because after one little fall in the roundpen, Pierre threatens to quit the program, pack up and go home.

Will Pierre give up?  Will Tornado end up at the glue factory?  You’ll just have to watch and see!

This was a typical “horse whisperer” type movie.  You know.. an “it’s not the horse that has a problem, it’s the man” sort of thing.  The only problem with this one was that Pierre has absolutely no connection with Tornado before or after their visit to the Kalahari horse whisperer.  So what happens when Pierre drops Tornado back off at his owner’s barn, a man who self-proclaims a horse is only as good as he is useful to the bank account’s bottom line?

This movie also had some serious plot holes and continuity problems.  I didn’t quite understand the characters motivations.  Bam… he’s a track star.  Bam… he freaks out and cuts himself.  Bam… he has transferred colleges and is now in a horse program.  Bam… he’s in the middle of the desert with a horse whisperer named Barrie and a dude wearing a fox head for a hat.  Bam… he’s a “qualified” horse manager.

Whaaaa?

On the plus side, the cinematography is excellent.  Africa has a stark, raw beauty that is really emphasized throughout.  The Arabian playing Tornado is also lovely and we get plenty of slow motion close-ups of him frolicking around the desert kicking up sand.  The soundtrack is also wonderful, albeit slow, orchestra music.

The bottom line is this movie is boring but beautiful.  I only wish Ryan Gosling played the lead role, Pierre, then you could just leave it running quietly in the background and have the most awesome screensaver of all time.

I give Riding Tornado 2 Golden Horseshoes.

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