R | 1h 44min | Western
Review - Matt Mungle
*In theaters October 21st 2016 *
Synopsis: A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody crosshairs of revenge
Review: Congrats to writer/director Ti West on making me a fan of the western. Better known for his thriller/horror flicks here Ti creates an old west adventure full of sarcasm and unhinged individuals. IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE puts just enough tongue in the cheek to be witty without ever diluting the core of the genre.
Paul (Ethan Hawke) is a quiet loner making his way south with his faithful four legged companion. He isn't looking for trouble but finds it none the less when he stops in a small, dried up town ruled by a bunch of loud mouthed bullies. The Marshall (John Travolta) doesn't totally have a handle on everything; especially keeping his people in line. When some dim witted locals push Paul too far it becomes a bloody, gun blazing, battle of revenge.
Not being a fan of westerns I was first drawn to this film by the cast and premise. It didn't seem like your typical fare and I jumped at the chance to see Travolta in an action flick again, even if he was wearing boots and a hat. Plus I am a huge fan of Taissa Farmiga who also stars. She plays Mary Anne who along with her high maintenance sister Ellen (Karen Gillan) run the local hotel. Ellen has a desire for the finer things in life and bosses Mary Anne around. Some of the best onscreen interaction is between those two.
But the meat of the film is of course the showdown between Paul and The Marshall. Travolta is superb in this role wielding his lines with a verbose attitude. He is a man who has been dealt a crappy hand in life and he figures he can fold or call. Part philosopher and part arrogant lawman he tries his best to salvage the situation and bring it all peacefully to an end. Hawke too delivers a grand performance as a man pushed too far. You root for him the same way you get behind anyone you see bullied or taken advantage of. Plus you really despise the main bad guy, Gilly (James Ransone) and can't wait for him to take a bullet.
West keeps his story moving with well written dialogue and memorable characters. It never feels weighty or cliche. Often in Westerns I find myself just wanting it to be over. In this one Ti kept me engaged and wanting more. It was a subtle mix of knowing what was coming and trusting how he would get me there. His knack for the horror genre upped the intensity level of the violence. Not to the point of the macabre but extreme enough to squirm. It was fantastic.
In a Valley of Violence is obviously rated R for violence and language. A must see for fans of the cast and stylized westerns. I would hope the old school fans would embrace it as well. The wit and sarcasm never make fun of the genre but instead enhance the characters and bring the script to brilliant life. I give it 4 out of 5 pistol grips; for the genre. It sold me and I am probably the toughest customer.