A disappointing and dull action-adventure, Hidalgo hinges on the appeal of Viggo Mortensen. But even die-hard fans of the Lord Of The Rings star may struggle to care as designer-stubbled western hero Frank Hopkins rides to glory in a 3,000-mile desert horse race. Predictable, clichéd and hypocritical, this is cowboys and Arabians - Seabiscuit, with sand.
The filmmakers claim their tale is true, but questions have been raised over whether Hopkins ever competed in the Ocean of Fire horse race - or if, in fact, such a race even existed. Which is ironic given that Joe Johnson's pious picture starts with its star working in the myth-making Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill (JK Simmons) - re-enacting heroic events he knows to be false.
An army despatch rider-turned-showbiz drunk, Hopkins is another poor white boy (see The Last Samurai) drowning his sorrows after seeing Indians slaughtered - at the Battle of Wounded Knee (a real-life atrocity presented here as the politest massacre in history; Viggo's horse gets more sympathy). He's apparently half-Injun himself, although Mortensen couldn't look more Nordic if he was dressed as Odin, and this risible tokenism only allows for a silly spot of pseudo-spiritual nonsense later on.
Challenged to take part in the Ocean Of Fire to determine who has the world's greatest horse, Viggo can't resist proving the titular beast is the best and heads to the Middle East to show those dodgy Arabs some good ol' American grit. A string of unremarkable adventures ensue, as he dodges the eeevil Katib (Silas Carson) - whose pointy beard could have your eye out; wows Sheik Riyadh (a dignified Omar Sharif); and makes nice with his feisty daughter (Zuleikha Robinson), whose girl power innovations make her a virtual American-in-waiting (a transparent burka - brilliant!).
The stereotypes and blatant propaganda wouldn't irritate so much if the action itself wasn't so relentlessly dreary - a desert of imagination, parched of original ideas. "Nobody hurts my horse," growls Mortensen in an unintentionally amusing moment. And nobody should see your film.