Film / The Electric Horseman

The Electric Horseman is a 1979 film directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Willie Nelson also appears in a supporting role.

Sonny Steele (Redford) is a washed-up rodeo star who was once a champion, but is now a drunk who is reduced to making cameos in a lit-up cowboy costume (earning his nickname) and hocking breakfast cereal. He is scheduled to appear in a commercial with Rising Star, a retired champion racehorse that the cereal company bought. When he arrives at the commercial shoot, he finds that they've shot the horse up with steroids to bulk him up, and drugged him to make him more docile on the set. Angry with Rising Star's mistreatment and disillusioned with the state of his life, he decides to take matters into his own hands. At a scheduled public appearance at a Las Vegas casino, he rides the horse right off the stage, down the Strip, and sets out cross-country, picking up Hallie Martin (Fonda) a reporter who senses the story of a lifetime.

The Electric Horseman contains the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Sonny
  • Awesome McCool Name: Sonny Steele, of course.
  • Cool Horse: Rising Star, a champion racehorse.
  • Creator Cameo: Sydney Pollack briefly appears as a man who makes a pass at Hallie.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Sonny's first name is actually Norman. (It's possible his last name isn't Steele, either.)
  • Hot Scoop: Hallie.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Hallie Martin
  • New Old West: Most of the action takes place in the contrasting worlds of the modern West: the glitzy Las Vegas Strip and the unspoiled wild lands of Zion National Park in Utah.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Hallie figures out from a conversation with Sonny's ex-wife that he's probably taking Rising Star to Rimrock Canyon to release him. She calls it in to her news station, leading to a whole gaggle of press and cops waiting for them. She eventually comes to sympathize with Sonny and confesses to him, trying to convince him not to go because he'd get arrested. He decides to go through with it anyway. Ultimately subverted. He knew the whole time, and never planned to go to Rimrock Canyon. His real destination was Silver Wreath. However, he leads Hallie on even after her confession, just to mess with her.
  • Not a Morning Person: Sonny, due to numerous injuries in his time on the rodeo circuit.
    "Some parts wake up faster than others. The broken parts take longer."
  • Refuge in Audacity: How Sonny steals Rising Star. During a scheduled appearance he rides the horse right off the stage and down the Las Vegas strip. Most people think it's part of the show.
  • Scenery Porn: The scenes shot in Zion National Park.
  • Somewhere, an Equestrian Is Crying: In-universe. The advertising execs decide Rising Star looks too skinny and give him steroids to bulk him up for the commercials. Sonny doesn't take this well.