“Sweet but mostly sour.”
Life in the old West was tough. It was particularly tough if you were a woman, such as Sarah Ramírez (Jones), struggling to make an honest living with her farmer husband Miguel (Noriega), having escaped life as a prostitute. This movie shows it to be especially tough, after Miguel has had his throat slit by batty preacher Prophet Josiah (Isaacs) – it doesn’t help he has the hots for Sarah, apparently taking the “love thy neighbour” line very literally, and runs the local area as if it were his own personal fiefdom. Fortunately, she has an unusual ally in Sheriff Jackson (Harris). The lawman shows up, looking for two people who disappeared on a journey which took them right across Josiah’s territory, and is about the only other person willing to stand up to the lunatic religious fringe. Finally, Sarah has had enough, and embarks on her vengeance against, not only Josiah, but anyone else who has wronged her, such as the shopkeeper who spied on her in his changing-room.
That final clause kinda illustrates the main problem here: an unevenness of tone which veers between the deadly serious and the ludicrously comic. That’s even the case for some individual characters, particularly Jackson; one minute, he’s waltzing by himself in the town’s main street, the next he’s carrying out forensic analysis, decades ahead of its time. While an intriguing character, the movie might have been better off concentrating on him or Sarah: they may share a common enemy, yet they hardly share a scene until the end, where Jackson’s sole purpose appears to be to provide a second firearm for our heroine. As for the ending, “Is that it?” will likely be your reaction, though in the film’s defense, I sense the emptiness of revenge is part of the point: once you’ve taken it, bringing to an end something which has consumed your life, what then?
I enjoyed the performances here, however: Jones’s understated style works towards her, while Isaacs and Harris both put over an unhinged air of barely-repressed violence. There are some fine moments, depicting Sarah’s willingness to use any means necessary, luring two of Josiah’s men to their doom by bathing in a river [pics from the scene “leaked” out: in no way was this a shallow publicity grab, I’m sure…]. The look of the film is also well done, with good use made of the New Mexico landscapes, and as the picture above shows, the heroine’s colourful garb is an interesting contrast – must have been hot and uncomfortable as hell to film in that. But the good intentions aren’t enough to overcome the lurches in tone and content, and the result is, frankly, a bit of a mess.
Dir: Logan Miller
Star: January Jones, Jason Isaacs, Ed Harris, Eduardo Noriega
a.k.a. Sweet Vengeance or Sherif Jackson