April 17, 2019

Hardened Con Offered Shot at Redemption by Horse Whisperer

FINDING REDEMPTION: In “The Mustang,” a violent criminal (Matthias Schoenaerts) learns to tame his anger by participating in a program that pairs inmates with wild mustangs. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

By Kam Williams

Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has too quick a fuse to think before he acts. That’s why he’s done a dozen years and counting in a maximum-security prison for impulsively delivering a brutal beating that left his victim permanently brain-damaged. 

Even while incarcerated, Roman never learned to control his temper. Consequently, he’s voluntarily spent the bulk of his time in solitary confinement.

A shot at rehabilitation arrives when Myles (Bruce Dern), a salty old horse whisperer, offers Roman a spot in his program pairing inmates with wild mustangs. The hope is that each participant will learn to tame his own raging inner soul while bonding with his stallion.

Roman grudgingly accepts the invitation, and is assigned to work with a bucking bronco he names Marcus. Under the watchful eye of the sage trainer, con and colt do gradually take to each other, although not without plenty of fits and starts.

Marking Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s directorial debut, The Mustang is a character-driven masterpiece. Schoenaerts and Dern generate considerable chemistry in the course of delivering powerful performances against a variety of visually-captivating backdrops, ranging from the vast expanse of the Nevada desert to the claustrophobic confines of one of the state’s penal institutions.

An emotionally engaging meditation on redemption inspired by a real-life program helping inmates turn their lives around.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, violence, and drug use. Running time: 96 minutes. Production Companies: Legende Films/Cine+/Canal+. Distributor: Focus Features.