In a year where Hollywood is trying very hard to resurrect the star studded Western once more, Ti West comes along and casts Ethan Hawke in one of the most simplistic love letters to the sub-genre ever filmed. “In a Valley of Violence” doesn’t so much have a narrative as it has a string of events that coincide with one another, leading in to a chain of revenge, violence, and death. Ethan Hawke’s character isn’t a hero, and John Travolta’s character isn’t entirely villainous, they’re both pushed in to unfortunate corners. It then becomes a bunch of scoundrels striking one another down thanks to the actions of one individual who sets up a huge string of events that slam in to one another in bloody chaos. Ethan Hawke stars as enigmatic Paul, a lone drifter who has only his side arms, his horse, and his loyal dog Abbey by his side.
John Sturges’ “The Magnificent Seven” is such a pitch perfect example of how to accomplish a remake. And Sturges has his work cut out for him as “The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Kurosawa’s film was already considered a classic by 1960, and was a juggernaut of foreign cinema that influenced filmmakers and studios worldwide. Even today its influence over cinema is immense. So it’s no small feat that “The Magnificent Seven” is just as good as the original and can stand side by side with it as another version of the tale that is as compelling and action packed. In fact Kurosawa loved it so much he allegedly sent Sturges a ceremonial sword as a bid a token of approval for his version.
Fred Zinnemann’s classic Western is an absolute masterpiece that continues to hold its place as my favorite Western of all time. It’s a marvel of cinema, and a wonderful dramatic thriller set in the old West and ponders on the question of what happens when the helpers need help. It’s also a stunning albeit cynical glimpse at the ultimate summary of a hero and how they can sometimes be cast aside by those that they’ve protected for so many years. Gary Cooper’s role as Will Kane is absolutely pitch perfect, especially when it pertains to his role as a man desperately seeking help in staring down imminent death and settling score that will meet him at the end of his day, no matter what he does.
“Fievel Goes West” is a childhood favorite and a fitting end to the legacy of Jimmy Stewart. Not only does Stewart play an old dog who was once an old West hero, but Stewart was a man very fond of family friendly entertainment. “Fievel Goes West” is a film just as good as the original where the Mousekewitz family find themselves being exploited by a capitalist cat who wants to enslave the mouse community before eating them. Masquerading as a Southern mouse promising a new start in the old west town of Green River, the Mousekewitzes make another trek in to a new frontier after the crowded slums of New York didn’t quite work out for them.
Director Quentin Tarantino has apparently had enough of delivering fans films that are mash ups of genres he loves and instead seems to want to challenge his audience the older he gets. Any artist grows the older they become and Tarantino has grown, exploring cinema that’s gradually more polarizing and alienating as time goes on. Quentin Tarantino hasn’t lost his ability to tell a story and unfold an interesting narrative, as he’s hellbent on exploring a character piece that’s less action and call backs to past genres, and more of an implementation of certain genres to create what has been his most divisive film to date.
With “The Revenant,” Alejandro González Iñárritu pulls off a wonderful vision with amazing cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, posing the wilderness of South Dakota as something of an omnipresent force that works against every single character from the moment we step on to the snow covered woodlands. “The Revenant” works around a simple tale of revenge and enduring the elements all to convey the sheer unforgiving world that protagonist Hugh Glass has to venture across simply to avenge his own son. The weather and terrain holds no prisoners and garners zero bias, enduring the war of man and being covered in the blood of the violated while offering as much punishment as it’s dealt. Director Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” is a grueling epic that views what lengths main character Hugh Glass is willing to go through to ensure justice is served.
You can’t even be mad at Adam Sandler anymore. If he’s not trying to break out of his comfort zone, all we can really do is watch the slow painful death of his career, while he brings Netflix down with him. Sandler silently stumbles in to “The Ridiculous 6” with an obvious bored, half asleep performance, and leaves the film with a cool pay day and the hope that at least one or two of his remaining fans will love what he’s put out in the form of this hideous western comedy that doesn’t even try to re-invent the wheel. Netflix doesn’t seem to be demanding much from Sandler, so it’s apparent here that Sandler isn’t even working toward offering nothing we haven’t already seen in the last fifteen years ad nauseum. Almost like a contractual obligation, “The Ridiculous 6” is a greatest hits compilation of no brainer Sandler tropes that fill up the required two hour run time.
If you ever wondered what “The Hills Have Eyes” would look like remade in to a cheap C grade Western, look no further than “Bone Tomahawk.” It’s hard to believe such a rank amateurish and awful film could attract a cast like Patrick Wilson, and Kurt Russell but here we are watching two genuinely excellent performers slumming it in a movie fashioned around sets that look as if they were stolen from an off Broadway period play. “Bone Tomahawk” fashions itself a horror western, but I’d be hard pressed to brand it horror. I’d be hard pressed to brand it a movie, to be honest.