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Western films, from silent to today

Slow West (2015)

Slow West (2015) DVD coverA young boy from Scotland named Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) travels to America and heads west to track down his one true love, a young woman named Rose Ross (Caren Pistorious) with a handbook called “Ho! For the West” as his guide.

He soon finds himself with a real-life guide named Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), who wants $100 to get him to a forest in Colorado called Silver Ghost where he’s heard Rose and her father have settled.

Jay isn’t sure he needs this “brute.” In fact, he slips away from him one night only to be taken advantage of by a “writer” named Werner who’s documenting the demise of the Indian and seems oh-so-much more civilized. At that point, Jay hands over all the money he has if Silas will just get him to Rose safely.

Rose and her dad fled to the west because of a deadly accident back home that Jay feels responsible for. What he doesn’t know is that even in the west, she and her father are wanted – dead or alive – with a $2,000 reward on their heads.

Silas finds that out and hopes to cash in. A bounty hunter posing as a minister is already on their trail. And Silas and Jay are leading a gang led by a vicious killer named Payne (Ben Mendelsohn) right to that bounty.

Rating 5 out of 6Review:

Anytime a director can serve up a Western in this day and age that seems fresh, kudos are well deserved. That’s what John Maclean has done here, transforming New Zealand into Colorado in a beautiful looking film.

More importantly, he’s served up a tight little wry tale of a young dreamer who’s totally unequipped to deal with the wilderness he’s ventured into and an embittered mentor who goes from day to day just trying to survive.

In the process, he’s also served up some fresh scenes that will likely stick with you. If not, well, at least they make the film seem new. Like when Jay catches an arrow. Like when Jay and Silas find two young children standing outside a trading post after everyone inside – including their parents – have died in a holdup gone wrong. And like the riding clothesline Jay creates after a flash flood.

The ending serves up a few surprises as well.

Directed by:
John Maclean

Cast:
Kodi Smit-McPhee … Jay Cavendish
Michael Fassbender … Silas Selleck
Ben Mendelsohn … Payne
Caren Pistorius … Rose Ross
Rory McCann .. John Ross
Andrew Robertt … Werner
Edwin Wright … Victor the Hawk
Kalani Queypo … Kotori

Runtime: 83 min.

Memorable lines:

Silas: “The kid was a wonder. He saw things differently. To him, we were in a land of hope and good will. The way I saw it, kick over any rock and most likely a desperado would crawl out and knife you right in the heart if there was a dollar in it.”

Silas: “Got any meat?”
Trading post owner: “Got condemned bacon. Traded it for bullets. Both will kill you pretty quick.”

Werner: “East: What news?”
Jay: “Violence and suffering. And West?”
Werner: “Dreams and toil.”

Payne: “Easy to see how you two crossed paths – one’s a falling angel, the other’s a rising devil.”

Silas, as Jay winces over the arrow shot through his hand: “Nice catch.”

Payne, knowing his bounty is inside the Ross homestead, to his gang members, who are hidden in a cane field: “Kill that house.”

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One Comment

  1. Unlike most of the genre, Slow West doesn t revel in the wide-open Leone-esque expanses of the frontier. Instead, it s squared off in a narrow frame by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, giving it a more intimate flair.

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