The Mustang Movie: A Critique

Everything makes me cry. Commercials with animals, the song I Don’t Remember Me by Brothers Oborne, this video of a horse running with a prosthetic leg, any animal rescue video on Facebook. I could probably have a podcast called Today I Cried Because. Actually I know this is a thing because of a pregnancy subreddit where the acronym is TIC: Today I Cried [because…]. Basically my ability to cry is close to pregnant woman levels, so I had my tissues ready and waiting after seeing the previews for The Mustang.


WELL LET ME TELL YOU. This ain’t no heartfelt movie about the love and connection between horses and humans. No, it’s not about the horse’s ability to heal a broken soul like they’ve healed Jaycee Dugard’s. No.

The movie begins with a heart-wrenching scene of wild mustangs being rounded up by helicopters, corralled into pens and scared onto a horse trailer where they fight amongst themselves for room. Horse screams and the booms of hooves on metal are heavily emphasized. I actually teared up quite a bit here.

The following scene is a contrast with the main character waking up in his cell bed, in a prison he’s just been transferred to. This is the main character of the movie, the “victim” of the system who caved in his baby mama’s head in a fit of rage twelve years earlier, leaving her an indefinite dependent for his young daughter.

The film seemed confused about a theme or goal or point. Was it that the prison system is flawed? [Gang] Violence within the prison system is systemic and ignored? That the horse program significantly heals the prisoners? The plight of the mustang? The worst victims are the families of criminals?

The movie had a few inspiring scenes, most of which were shown in full in the previews. The scene of the mustang bending his head down to Roman’s chest, yeah, that happened immediately after Roman was screaming and yelling at the horse, chasing him around his corral. Not post-join up as anyone familiar with mustang might guess.

They give the “wildest” mustang to the brand new asshat with severe anger issues? Good idea. And guess where this mustang is before Roman can ‘tame’ him? In a tiny dog kennel-esque cage completely boarded up. Okay… They finally get Roman and the mustang in the round pen and of course Roman starts punching the horse. Okay, fine, I could see this happening maybe (anger issues, right?) but the horse just stands there? A wild mustang… wouldn’t a wild horse just round-house kick a dude? People have gotten kicked in the face for less. After that he’s banned from the program. But then there’s a thunderstorm and they have to move all the wild animals into the… prison kitchen!!! He’s brought out to help so somehow he’s in charge of the horse he assaulted previously? And this wild, wild animal can now be suddenly caught easily and lead by a lasso.

Also, Roman comes into the new prison but seemingly doesn’t associate with anyone but has gang tattoos visible all over his neck?

At one point the manager of the mustang program is having all the participants running in tandem across the desert, and stops them to inform them that “Hey some of these horses will be used by border patrol, so they GOTTA KNOW HOW TA CHASE!” Immediate cut scene to them playing soccer and then the happy-go-lucky black advisor to Roman gets stabbed and killed? Literally. What the hell.

Okay I’m going to stop, can’t retell the entire story, but if you think this is the story of how the program works and a man comes out of his shell with the help of the heart of a horse… it ain’t. Equine assisted therapy is an actual up and coming concept in mental health and I’m just disappointed it didn’t it’s day on the big screen.

However, I give a solid 10/10 to the indie theatre in my area. Husband and I will be definitely be back. They even serve alcoholic beverages so I can deal with my next disappointing indie movie with a bit more grace. I full on cried during the preview for the Aretha Franklin movie, so maybe that - doubt that one would be disappointing.