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Cutting Horse

Cutting Horse (2002)
Director: Larry Clark
35mm, color

Director Larry Clark’s revisionist Western, and second independent feature, appropriates and reconfigures genre tropes to tell the emotional story of a man struggling to put things right in his life, and in the community he once called home.  Tyler is called back to the land where his former boss Sanchez still breeds horses.  A strong, silent Black man, as stalwart as the freed slaves who had once worked with Mexican cattle-herding vaqueros in the old West, Tyler arrives with a reputation as an exceptional trainer of “cutting horses” (those that are cultivated to isolate and rein in unruly cattle).  It is because of that talent that he has been summoned again, this time to train two specific horses as competitive champions.  There he joins Doc Pete and Ray, two other members of Sanchez’ team.

Unfortunately, Tyler also carries the taint of having once assaulted the unruly son of local political boss Neil Stone, himself a prominent landowner and industrialist who envies Sanchez’ property and horses.  Never mind that Tyler’s former violence had actually been vengeance for the younger Stone having molested Sanchez’ daughter Rosa (once Tyler’s lover, since then married to Ray).  Now the passionate Tyler must walk a straight and narrow line in order to achieve his principal goal, and not be dissuaded.   Distractions emerge in many forms, as the industrialist attempts to sabotage Sanchez, trip up Tyler and even buy the loyalty of the less insightful Ray.  Gratifyingly, not only skill and hard-earned wisdom, but also honor, prove to be effective counterbalances to the schemes of powerful Stone as the competitive “cutting horse” event nears.  Even new love seems a possibility.

The American West is a far cry from the settings of most L.A. Rebellion pictures.   However, it offers a serviceable (not to mention beautiful) field against which to enact a story with resonance for Black audiences, one of a man who must be better than his peers, do battle with specters from the past and seek means other than violence to prevail in his worthy goal.

Shannon Kelley 

New print struck from the original 35mm color negative and the original 35mm track negative.

Film Credits

Individual Role(s)
Larry Clark Director
David Hentz Writer
Alexandra Cantin Cinematographer
Ruben O'Malley Cinematographer
Albert Harris Cast
Cesar E. Flores Cast
Robert Earl Crudup Cast
Melissa Cellura Cast
Rufus Norris Cast