Saturday, 11 January 2020

Movie Review: In A Valley Of Violence (2016)


A budget western, In A Valley Of Violence seeks a Spaghetti Western vibe but offers a clunky and feeble script stacked with overly familiar elements.

Mysterious drifter Paul (Ethan Hawke) and his dog Abbie are heading to Mexico to escape a dark past full of violence. They tangle with a drunk preacher (Burn Gorman) before riding into the small and sparsely populated town of Denton. Local hardhead Gilly Martin (James Ransone) resents Paul's presence and earns a humiliating punch in the face for his troubles.

Gilly's fiancee Ellen (Karen Gillan) and her younger sister Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga) run the local hotel. The talkative Mary-Anne takes a liking to Paul, but he is mostly silent and brooding. Gilly's father is Marshal Clyde Martin (John Travolta), and he asks Paul to quietly leave town. But the deeply insulted Gilly and three goons catch up with Paul to seek revenge, resulting in plenty of bloodshed.

The opening credit sequence is an effective and nostalgic ode to Spaghetti Westerns enlivened by a Jeff Grace music score. The dog Abbie is exceptionally well trained and steals every scene she is in. But these are just about the only positives offered by In A Valley Of Violence.

Writer and director Ti West appears to be operating with limited resources, the entire film effectively constructed from about a dozen scenes, most of them achingly prolonged well past the point of effectiveness to scratch out a 99 minute feature. The town of Denton consists of 10 residents, background extras an out of reach luxury in this valley.

Also lacking is any sense of originality. This is a straightforward revenge western where the bad guys are bad, the good guy is escaping a dark past, and the dog angle is lifted straight from John Wick. The writing is rudimentary, West quick to snatch at unearned epic moments. The humour is welcome and sometimes sharp, but also uneven and as the climax approaches, the attempted laughs clash with the prevailing tone.

Ethan Hawke is decent within the confines of the material despite a scattershot backstory consisting of vaguely defined incidents. John Travolta is unsure what to do with the role of a Marshal with one wooden leg and one dense but dangerous son. James Ransone is shallow as the villain of the piece, and both Karen Gillan and Taissa Farmiga are treated as irritating afterthoughts.

In A Valley Of Violence is the place to find tired western cliches in search of a better project.






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