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Review (5/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Hidalgo is the story of Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen), a world-renowned long distance horse rider, who claims to have won hundreds of long distance races with the help of his trusty mustang, Hidalgo. One ill-fated day, Hopkins, who moonlights as a Pony Express courier, unknowingly delivers a message to U.S. soldiers that soon results in the massacre of hundreds of innocent Native Americans. Haunted by the events at Wounded Knee Creek, Hopkins hits the bottle and becomes a performer in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show.

Hopkins performs with Hidalgo, who is billed as the greatest long distance race horse of all-time, a claim that draws the ire of a wealthy Arab sheik (Omar Sharif). As a result, Hopkins is soon offered a spot in the prestigious "Ocean of Fire" race, a race that has been run for thousands of years by the purest of Arabian stallions. He is invited to prove that Hidalgo is, in fact, not the greatest of all-time. The winner must be the first to finish a grueling 3000-mile race, on horseback, across the Arabian deserts. Hopkins is vilified from the start of the race - partially because he is not Arabian and but more so because his horse is not a pure breed. He is not given much of a chance right before the race even starts. Not only must Hopkins fight a devastating sandstorm, a swarm of locusts and the brutal desert heat, he must also battle a large number of participants in the race who would rather see him and his horse dead than see them complete the race. And it does not stop there. Of course Hopkins attracts the attention of the sheik's beautiful (well, okay, beautiful might be pushing it but she was okay) daughter (Zuleikha Robinson) and that does not go over too well with the sheik and his henchmen. They attempt to literally castrate the American hero. Personally, I would rather face all the elements Hopkins must face, times ten, then to have to endure castration. Somewhere in there he also encounters some really bad CGI cheetahs. Hidalgo is apparently loosely based on the real life events of the life of Frank T. Hopkins but if the events that unfold in this movie are even half-truths, well, then I am a monkey's uncle. Not that it is a bad story, but just not entirely believable.

Hidalgo is a moderately entertaining movie. I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I have to admit there was a couple of times that I found myself a bit confused as to who was who, when, where, why and how, if you get what I mean. And some of those subtitles that appeared in the movie were off the screen even before I was half -done reading them! Viggo does a good job with Hopkins and the character is fairly likeable, as is his outstanding horse, but the movie is not nearly as interesting or exciting as it wishes to be. For one thing, the whole story is fairly predictable, with a couple of twists and turns that are rather anticlimactic. The sandstorm and the locust attack? Well, combined, they last for about three minutes of the entire film and are not all that special. The sheik's daughter getting kidnapped and Hopkins' dramatic rescue are okay but seem a bit misplaced in the middle of the movie, considering he manages to pull off this feat right in the middle of the grueling race. Most of the characters in the movie that are not played by anyone named Viggo are insignificant or boring.

The movie delivers a few subtle and not so subtle messages about Native Americans, women, slavery and mixed humans and horses (both Hopkins and Hidalgo face adversity because of their mixed bloodlines) and that is admirable. However, overall, Hidalgo ends up playing out to be a rather average movie with a few exciting parts but nothing that would require anyone to run out to the theatre to see it immediately. If you love horses, go to the racetrack. If you love Viggo, rent Lord of the Rings. If you love horses and Viggo, well, then I would recommend seeing Hidalgo. Otherwise, beware - Hidalgo is an average movie, so proceed with caution.

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