Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Director: Sergio Leone

Writer: Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone (Screenplay) Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone (Story)

Starring: Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Gabriele Ferzetti, Paolo Stoppa

 

Plot: A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.


Tagline – There were three men in her life. One to take her… one to love her… and one to kill her.

Runtime: 2 Hours 44 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: One of the Best Westerns You Will Ever See

 

Story: Once Upon a Time in the West starts when Jill McBain (Cardinale) arrives to her new home, only to find her whole family killed, husband and children. The fingers point at desperado Cheyenne (Robards) only we know it is ruthless assassin Frank (Fonda) who will kill anyone.

Jill joins forces with mysterious Harmonica (Bronson) and Cheyenne to get back at Frank and the ruthless Railroad Baron Morton (Ferzetti) who has targeting the widow.

 

Thoughts on Once Upon a Time in the West

 

Characters – Jill McBain is a woman from New Orleans, her family has moved to Utah to create a new life with her joining them, only when she arrives her family has been killed. Believing she has lost everything it is the strangers she meets which help guide her to get her revenge on the people who committed the crime. Frank is the assassin working for the Baron, he uses his gang to kill anyone he is asked to kill showing no remorse whether it be man, woman or child. Cheyenne is the outlaw known around the land, he is the prime suspect for the family’s murder, though he has rules to never hurt a child, he helps uncover the truth behind the crime. Harmonica is the mysterious stranger who is in town, he will help Jill get revenge on the men behind her family’s murder.

PerformancesClaudia Cardinale is wonderful in this leading role, in a genre generally dominated by male performers she shines in her role. Henry Fonda as the cold-hearted killer is a join to watch as well, we believe his evil in every scene he is in. Jason Robards is fantastic too as his Charles Bronson with this film easily have four of the best performance you will see in any film.

StoryThe story here follows one woman that loses her family to outlaws and joins forces to learn the truth with to other outlaws. This can be looked at as a simple revenge western which in parts it is, but at 2 hours 44 minutes long you must be thinking how doe the time pass. If we are honest the time flies by and each character gets the chance to develop to give us a full understanding of everything that is going on. This is how you can tell a simple story with interesting characters that get the back story to make you care while still on revealing certain parts late in the film. this is one you need to experience just to understand the masterclass in storytelling we got here.

WesternWestern’s are easily one of my weakest genres to enjoy, in this film we see what a western is all about, moving away from the big city to start and build a new life with the dangers of the cowboys and outlaws trying to take anything from anybody. The music helps us completely understand this is a western with the gunslinging coming from all corners.

SettingsThe film put sus in the middle of the land you would expect any western to be set, desert locations without many resources and the railroad looking to come through the towns.


Scene of the Movie –
The showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Even the length of the film is acceptable, nothing annoyed me.

Final ThoughtsThis is easily one of the greatest westerns every made, it uses the themes wonderfully and gives us four strong characters with proper development.

 

Overall: Must watch western.

Rating

 

 

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The Homesman (2014)

Director: Tommy Lee Jones

Writer: Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley A Oliver (Screenplay) Glendon Swartout (Novel)

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, Jo Harvey Allen

 

Plot: Three women who have been driven mad by pioneer life are to be transported across the country by covered wagon by the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy, who in turn employs low-life drifter George Briggs to assist her.


Tagline – The untold story of The West.

Runtime: 2 Hours 2 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Nicely Paced Drama

 

Story: The Homesman starts as independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank) steps up where the men of her town wouldn’t and accepts taking three women Arabella (Gummer), Theoline (Otto) and Gro (Richter) across the west back to their homes after their husbands claim them to be crazy.

Mary is join by a lowlife drifter George Briggs (Jones) whose life she saves, with this being payment for saving the life. The journey is going to be filled with perils as we slowly learn what caused these women to act the way they did.

 

Thoughts on The Homesman

 

Characters – Mary Bee Cuddy lives a single life due to her independence she has created, she is branded bossy and is willing to step up, where the men wouldn’t. She agrees to take the three women across the river to return them home where they could get the help they need. This is a journey she is proud to take but isn’t the fully prepared for what she will face, relying on God to guide her. George Briggs is a lowlife drifter who has been left to hang for his crimes, Mary saves him and he becomes the guide through the troubles on the journey. The three women that are being transported have their own reasons for being branded crazy, mostly due to the abuse they have suffered.

PerformancesThe performances in this movie are carried by two powerhouses, Hilary Swank shines in the leading role, something we have seen from her for years now. Tommy Lee Jones takes double duty here, the acting he gives us is just what you expect while his work behind the camera shows that he can do both the roles. The three actresses playing the ill women are good showing their own strain from what has happened to their characters.

StoryThe story follows the journey across America to return three women that have struggled to adapt to new life in the growing America, one woman will risk it all to guide the women home with an unlikely partner on the journey sees him needing overcome the conditions and enemies to make it. We do have a faith-based character driving forward and we look at mental illness before it was considered a known issue in the western land. This does feel like a safe story to be telling, while being just an important.

WesternThe western land has always look beautiful, it has always had character that must look out for themselves, this is no different with how everything unfolds without needing to resort to gun fire.

SettingsTh settings look beautiful, the open plains, the different weather conditions will make this one of the best looking movies of the year.


Scene of the Movie –
Hotel problems.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It is slower than you will be expecting.

Final ThoughtsThis is a beautiful drama that has a wonderful story to watch unfold, powerful performances throughout and stunning scenery.

 

Overall: Western fans to enjoy.

Rating

 

 

Hostiles (2017)

Director: Scott Cooper

Writer: Scott Cooper (Screenplay) Donald E Stewart (Manuscript)

Starring: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Stephen Land, Rory Cochrane

 

Plot: In 1892, a legendary Army Captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.


Tagline – We are all… Hostiles.

Runtime: 2 Hour 14 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Tension Riddled Western

 

Story: Hostiles starts in 1892 when Army Captain Joseph J Block (Bale) is assigned to escort Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi) and his family back to their land so he can die in his home territory, he is reluctantly to do this mission because of his battles with the Cheyenne, but threaten with court martial, he puts a unit together including Master Sgt Thomas Metz (Cochrane), Corp Henry Woodson (Majors), Lt Rudy Kidder (Plemons) and others.

Along the way the party stumbles upon Rosalee Quaid (Pike) whose family was butchered by a tribe leaving her three children including a baby dead, Joseph offers to take her on the journey as she has nothing left. The journey will take them through dangerous territories where Joseph must learn that the battle between man isn’t as simple as he once thought it was.

 

Thoughts on Hostiles

 

Characters – Captain Joseph J Blocker is a legendary soldier that’s reputation is respected, he is assigned a mission he has no interest in, being forced to escort a Cheyenne Chief home or face consequences including losing his pension. He is the best translator and knows the best paths, making him the best man for the job which will see him face his toughest mission yet. Rosalee Quaid saw her whole family butchered by a tribe invading her home, broken she is alone until the party discover her and take her on the journey. She learns that not both sides of the party are evil, just the human kind. Chief Yellow Hawk is one of the leaders of the Native American people, he is known for his blood lust, but near his death bed he shows Joseph are not as evil as the people believe showing he is against some of the natives and their actions too. We do get to meet plenty of different soldiers with different opinions on the mission which only make things more difficult along the way.

PerformancesChristian Bale in the leading role is brilliant showing he can take on nearly any role, he has the permanent look of reluctance on his face while showing us he can make his character do the right thing. Rosamund Pike is wonderful too as the grief-stricken mother and widow that gets to learn to live again on the journey. Wes Studi continues to show us just how us just he is the go-to guy for any Native American character. The whole cast is great through the film without putting a place a foot wrong.

StoryThe story shows us how the two rivals through a war that must put their difference aside to go through dangerous territory where people from both sides can come to kill them. This story shows how the battles through America built divides that caused extreme behaviour and just how being more restrictive could be a smarter answer. The journey shows how the two sides learns to work together and that they do want the same thing in life and the blood shed isn’t the best answer. The pace is surprisingly great because it will never go too slow for the 2 and half hour runtime. We learn a lot about how to treat people here as we are nearly the same.

Adventure/WesternThe adventure takes the party across America which shows the different style of mindset across the country. The western themes are heavy through the film which brings back the old way of life in America.

SettingsThe settings look beautiful which show us how the countryside in America was one of the most amazingly visual location in the time.


Scene of the Movie –
Final Showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Not fully understand the distance needed to be travelled.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good modern era western that shows the final few moments on the old west where differences needed to a side their problems to make the future.

 

Overall: Enjoyable western.

Rating

 

 

Viggo Mortensen Weekend – Appaloosa (2008)

Director: Ed Harris

Writer: Robert Knott, Ed Harris (Screenplay) Robert B Parker (Novel)

Starring: Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons, Renee Zellweger, Lance Henriksen

 

Plot: Two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher find their job complicated by the arrival of a young widow.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Solid but Slow Western

 

Story: Appaloosa starts as we see just how much control Randall Bragg (Irons) has over this small western town, he murders the current Marshall which brings a new Marshall to town. Virgil Cole (Harris) and his partner Deputy Everett Hitch (Mortensen) come to town with their own laws to clean up the Bragg gang.

When Cole & Hitch do find a way to arrest Randall the courts find him guilty of murdering the former Marshall but on route to the prison the rest of the gang force Cole’s hand by using Mrs French (Zellweger) to force Randall’s release, this leads to them needing to find a new way to eliminate Bragg’s gang.

 

Thoughts on Appaloosa

 

Characters/PerformanceVirgil Cole is the freelance Marshall, fast with a rifle and only killing the men who break the law. His reputation follows him as one of the scrictiest law men out there with a lot of his trust in Everett. Everett is the longtime partner of Virgil that always stands tall next him in battle, completes the long words and is the calm influence between the two. Randall Bragg is the rancher who has control over the town of Appaloosa him and his gang take what they want, kill who they want and reign terror over the town. Mrs French comes to town a widow becoming the love interest for Virgil and we learn what type of woman she is.

Performance wise, Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen both work well together showing good chemistry throughout the film and both play the lawman well through the film. Jeremy Irons always makes for a good villain through the any film and this is no exception. Renee is here but you do feel like her character is almost pointless to the main part of the film.

StoryThe story fills in just what you want from a western story, we have an enemy of the town that out numbers them all but two lawmen come into town to help clean it up in their own way, be it through legal or other means. This was meant to be a start of a series of films which is why you feel the threat wasn’t as big as it could have been but still enjoyable enough to watch.

Crime/Western/RomanceThis is a nice western film with perfect use of the setting for the crimes to take place, the romance side of film does feel tagged on in places though.

SettingsEach setting looks great for the film never taking us out of the time in question for the movie.

Final ThoughtsThis is a western film which is fine, it isn’t bad but isn’t up there with the greatest.

 

Overall: Western fans will enjoy.

Rating

 

 

Any Bullet Will Do (2018)

Director: Justin Lee

Writer: Justin Lee (Screenplay)

Starring: Kevin Makely, Bruce Davison, Jenny Curtis, Meg Foster, Todd A Robinson, Mark Ryan

 

Plot: Taking place during 1876 in Montana, a ruthless headhunter tracks his own Brother through Big Sky country with the help of a young fur trapper.


Tagline – Mercy is something you beg for.

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Gritty Western

 

Story: Any Bullet Will Do starts when headhunter Hollis Ransom (Makely) arrives in the small town to collect his bounty from Jonathan Carrington (Davison) before stopping off at Ma Whitman’s (Foster) bar. Everett Ransom (Robinson) the brother of Hollis who is a murderous man, that Hollis is hired to eliminate them.

In need of a guide, Hollis reluctantly agrees to take the services of Rose Gage (Curtis) who knows how to deal with the snow-covered mountain ranges of Montana, can Hollis get his revenge.

 

Thoughts on Any Bullet Will Do

 

Characters – Hollis Ransom is lone headhunter that isn’t afraid to collect any bounties, he has a tortured past with his wife murdered by his own brother during the war, now he hunts his brother and must learn to trust Rose who can guide him to the end of his revenge mission. Jonathan Carrington pays the bounty hunters, he is ruthless when it comes to business though not always keeping his word. Rose Gage is the young woman that is the only one that will help Hollis in his journey across the mountains, she knows how to survive the terrain proving to be an excellent partner in his journey. Ma Whitman runs the local tavern, she will look after the loyal customers including Hollis.

PerformancesKevin Makely in the leading role as the headhunter is good, he makes us feel like he would be an outsider too which is what we need from this performance. Bruce Davison is solid enough in his supporting role, he doesn’t get that much screen time though. Jenny Curtis is strong in her role and works wonderfully well with Kevin. The rest of the cast do fit the roles they are given.

StoryThe story here is a old school western revenge one, with one man hunting down the person that killed his wife, this person just so happens to be his brother though, giving us a sibling rivalry in the fallout of the civil war. When it comes to the lone man on a revenge journey we see how reluctant they are to let others in, this is Hollis, we see how the one person he does let in, is only there dreaming of a better life for themselves. My only issue with the story is not getting to see just how twisted Everett is, sure we see what he did to Hollis’s wife, but on the journey he seems to pick up a reputation which makes him a terrible man, seeing a couple of action would only make us hate him more.

WesternThe western theme is one I have spoken about as one that we don’t see too often now, this shows we can do them and we can step away from the heated environment.

SettingsThe setting for this film is snow-covered mountain ranges which look as beautiful as they do seem deadly, showing us the man might not be the only danger for the men.


Scene of the Movie –
Final showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Not using Bruce Davison enough.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the surprise westerns of the year, we get to see just how strong characters can come together in a battle even if it is between a family, we have two strong performances and a shoot-out worth waiting for.

 

Overall: Western full of gritty and determination.

Rating