Friday, December 30, 2016

3 Short Paragraphs: In a Valley of Violence

2016, Ti West (The Innkeepers) -- download

Speaking of Old Westerns, Ti West, best known for his throwback horror movies The Innkeepers and The House of the Devil, brings us an old style western with very little pretension, a stripped back revenge story in the vein of John Wick. Ethan Hawke, who really is so successfully leaving behind that 90s pretty boy image he had, is a cowboy, a gunfighter who is heading south to Mexico, to leave behind some unknown dark past. First he bumps into a nasty preacher played by Burn Gorman, which establishes what kind of man Paul (Hawke) is, and then he bumps into the town of Denton, a nasty small place run by nasty small men.

Small towns in the old west were essentially self ruled, essentially lawless. This one is rule by John Travolta, who actually is a rather reasonable dictator, but unfortunately he has an unreasonable son. They try to kill Paul and do kill Paul's dog. Never kill the gunman's dog unless you are very very sure the gunman is dead. The rest of the movie is a stylish, but an incredibly lean style, revenge flick as Paul takes out each of of the men who killed his dog. Travolta and him live by a similar code, and while Paul only wants those men dead, Travolta cannot let Paul do so -- his son may be a dick, but he is his son after all.

I really like this movie, probably even more so than West's horrors which I thought were well done, if not entirely compelling. I like Old West stripped down to its simplest ideas. And while West does this here, the dialogue and characters are also very uncharacteristic. Paul is very enamoured with his dog, whom he connects to the wife & daughter he lost --- he talks to her like she can respond. Everything we know about Paul comes from that dialogue. Killing her, Abbie the dog, means he has lost any reason to be a better man. Well, maybe the local saloon girl (Taissa Farmiga, quickly becoming one of my favourite actresses) can convince him if not for the fact she is young enough to be a daughter. But he respects her needs, and he respects her. But no, he has to do what he has to do, all regrets put aside.