Picks and Pans Review: The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez

updated 10/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The first major movie to spring from Robert Red-ford's Sundance Institute in Provo, Utah—a workshop for independent filmmakers—is set in turn-of-the-century Texas. Directed by Robert (Short Eyes) Young, it is based on the true story of a Mexican tenant farmer who unwittingly became an outlaw when he killed a sheriff in a tragic misunderstanding. He then eluded posses who tracked him for 450 miles and 11 days across the Rio Grande Valley before finally arresting him. The star is Edward James (Wolfen) Olmos, who portrays Cortez with a soulful humanity. Director Young records the chase and subsequent trial from two points of view, showing the cruel capaciousness of frontier justice. The supporting cast is first-rate, with exceptional performances by Bruce (Animal House) McGill as a low-key reporter, Rosana (Cannery Row) DeSoto as a compassionate interpreter, James (Urban Cowboy) Gammon as the tough but principled Texas Ranger who saves Cortez from a lynch mob, and Barry (WarGames) Corbin as the court-appointed attorney who defends the Mexican. The movie, shot by cinematographer Ray Villalobos, makes the most of the striking vistas of Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Brought in at a dime-store price of $1.5 million, it is the American equivalent of Australia's Breaker Morant. Redford and everyone else concerned with the film should be proud of their achievement. (PG)

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