“Well, at least it’s different…”
Though nominally a Western, this perhaps has more in common with the surreal works of Alejandro Jodorowsky, in particular El Topo, with mystical elements and downright weirdness. Ransom Pride (Scott Speedman, from the Underworld series) is killed in a gun-battle while trying to broker an arms deal with the locals. His corpse is kept by the local bruja, or witch (de Pablo), because her brother also died in the fight, shot by Ransom. That doesn’t sit well with his lover, Juliette (Caplan), a half-breed who has been raised in blood since slitting the throat of the Mexican general who killed her parents, while still not yet a teenager. She returns to Ransom’s home, and recruits his brother (Foster) to help recover the body, on the way back to Mexico, meeting a bevy of strange characters and situations. Their mission doesn’t sit well with the Pride patriarch (Yoakam), a gun-fighter turned preacher, who sets loose a pair of hunters, but is prepared to get his own hands dirty in pursuit of that “whore of Babylon.”
In terms of visual style, it seems almost as if the appeoach was to try and irritate the hell out of the viewer, with frequent interruptions of scenes with a few frames takes from other sequences, past or yet to come. It certainly keeps the audience on their toes, but is both overused and outstays its welcome. That’s a shame, as there are other elements worthy of credit, not least the overall look, which has a bleached tone that is quite effective. Caplan is undeniably impressive, as is de Pablo – both come over as women with whom you do not want to mess. That’s impressive given both are probably best known previously, for fairly bland TV fare. Here, they are genuinely disturbing, and it’s a mix of the generally decent performances, and weird sense that anything could happen, that kept me watching.
On the downside, as well as the opaque visual sense, the audio is not infrequently as muddied as the picture, though it’s harder to say whether or not it was deliberately so. The script also has a tendency to drift off into areas that are probably not necessary – there’s too much backstory involving Ransom and his brother, when the film should instead have been moving forward. Finally, the editing during the action scenes is disappointing fractured, to the extent that you largely have to wait for the dust to settle and see who’s still alive. The negatives and positives end up just about balancing, and the end result is something that you don’t mind watching, yet will likely not have much interest in seeing again.
Dir: Tiller Russell
Star: Lizzy Caplan, Jon Foster, Cote de Pablo, Dwight Yoakam