Robert Redford’s fifth collaboration with Sydney Pollack sees him as Sonny Steele, a former rodeo champion turned breakfast cereal spokesman who’s required to perform a promotional spot at Caesar’s Palace as part of his duties. When he learns that his co-star is to be Rising Star, a former thoroughbred racehorse bought and drugged for the occasion, he saddles up, rides off the stage and heads for the desert, sick and tired of being reduced to a caricature of himself. What’s unusual about the film, however, is that, from the very moment he steers his steed down the Vegas Strip, Sonny becomes more of a media event than he could ever have dreamed or dreaded, even more at risk of being overtaken and eclipsed by his own corporate image. As the media frenzy builds and the airwaves buzz with speculations as to his motivations and exact whereabouts, he comes to feel even more inextricable from Vegas – financially, socially, aesthetically – to the point where it feels as if Pollack’s trying to fix the exact moment at which Vegas’ powers of pastiche and simulation cease, the precise borders of a postmodern fallout zone that seems to become more and more elastic as Redford pokes and prods them through one breathtaking Nevada and Utah landscape after another. Any incredulity at the sheer expanse of desert surrounding Sin City, then, is quite momentary, since it’s only a matter of time before Vegas sends out its tentacles through every fading ranch town and satellite highway exchange, conquers every horizon, even or especially when it operates through Hallie Atkin (Jane Fonda), the humanist reporter who follows Sonny to tell his story and ends up attaching her wagon to her star. And that’s perhaps what it takes to make a Vegas western, or at least the last gasp of a genre before it would become totally revisionist or self-consciously classicist – the story of a cereal cowboy turned serial cowboy, who never quite manages to evade his own image, or stop thinking of himself as a heroic silhouette.