In a Valley of Violence
Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Cast: Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransone, Karen Gillan, Toby Huss, Tommy Nohilly, Larry Fessenden, Burn Gorman
Part of: the surprise movie at the /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 29.9.2016
[Review by cornholio.]
Paul (Ethan Hawke) and his dog are travelling on their own when their paths cross with a drunk priest (Burn Gorman) who tries to rob them. Although Paul gets the better of him, after the encounter he decides to pass through the small town of Denton. But trouble follows him there and he finds himself provoked by deputy Gilly (James Ransone). After a quick fight and a polite visit by the Sheriff (John Travolta), things seem to be resolved. But maybe Paul can’t shake Denton quite as quickly as he thought.
In a Valley of Violence is basically John Wick in the Wild West, but since I’m not much of a Western fan, that transfer didn’t completely work for me, although there is much to enjoy about the film.
The film has an excellent cast – it feels like Travolta hasn’t been this good in decades – and great dialogues that were often really funny. And it also has the absolute dog bonus. There is simply nothing better than a dog doing tricks and being cute, so they have that going for them. The soundtrack was also great and perfectly sets the mood.
So there really is much to like about the film. But there are also things that don’t fly as well. There’s the fact that the film features Native Americans, but only so that Paul would get some flimsy white-savioury character motivation. Fortunately that’s only a small side note.
The two women in the film feature more prominently and they are also treated very problematically. Ellie (Karen Gillan) was a vapid cliché, and Mary-Anne’s (Taissa Farmiga) obsession and immediate romantic inclination toward Paul was undermotivated and also creepy considering the almost 25 years of age difference between Farmiga and Hawke. At least she was likeable regardless, contrary to Ellie.
In the end the film simply didn’t manage to pull me in. It’s enjoyable, yes, but even though I applaud the general decision to make a funny film of this plot and setting, it was not enough to really convince.