ABC Film Challenge – Action – I – In a Valley of Violence (2016)

Director: Ti West

Writer: Ti West (Screenplay)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransone, Karen Gillan, Toby Huss

 

Plot: A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody crosshairs of revenge.


Tagline – Keep Your Finger on the Trigger

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: John Wick the Western

 

Story: In a Valley of Violence starts when lone drifter Paul (Hawke) rides into a remote town with his trusty dog Abby, trying to keep to himself he gets the town drunk Gilly (Ransone) gets involved in a fight, which Paul wins with one punch. This grabs the attention of the Marshal (Travolta) and father of Gilly, who gives him a chance to walk away no questions asked, no more trouble.

When Gilly and his men comes for Paul in the dead of night, they leave him with nothing and now he swears to break his promise of no more killing, one last time.

 

Thoughts on In a Valley of Violence

 

Characters – Paul is the former soldier, he has lost everything while in battle and is heading to Mexico with his horse and dog. When this is taken from him, this former soldier will go on to show his skills by tracking down the men in an act of revenge. Marshal is trying to keep the peace in the town even after his son’s actions, he gets caught in the middle of follow the law and protecting his son. Mary-Anne is one of two sisters in this town, she is one of the few people in town that is vocal of her dislike to Gilly and offers Paul a reminder of his own daughter.

PerformancesEthan Hawke is wonderful in this leading role, he gives us a performance we can believe as the lone drifter with skills that can leave any town running red. John Travolta is strong in his scenes which are seem rare but are a major part of the film. Taissa Farmiga is good even if her character doesn’t get enough to do out of the typical girl in the west.

StoryThe story does bottle down to a simple revenge movie, think John Wick the western and you have the story set up. We have the lone trained killer that takes out the people that have don him wrong. This is a simple and enjoyable style of storytelling, the pace makes the film fly by and will leave you wanting more.

Action/Crime/WesternThe gun slinging action is all good and fits the western style the film is taking on, we get a simple crime story which works for the film.

SettingsThe film takes place in just one singular location in this remote town in the wild west which keeps things contained for the story.

Special EffectsThe effects are used with the kills and are done nicely without being over the top.


Scene of the Movie –
The main street shoot out.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The women characters are written bland.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good, blood filled action western film that is well worth watching, this is a good watch and has a strong performance from Hawke.

 

Overall: Good addition to the western genre.

Rating

 

 

Heath Ledger Weekend – Ned Kelly (2003) Movie Review

Director: Gregor Jordan

Writer: John Michael McDonagh (Screenplay) Robert Drewe (Novel)

Starring: Heath Ledger, Orland Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Naomi Watts, Joel Edgerton, Laurence Kinlan

Plot: An innocent man becomes one of the most wanted criminals the world has ever known.


Tagline – When the law tried to silence him a legend was born.

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Biopic 101

Story: Ned Kelly starts in 1871 Australia where an Irish family the Kelly’s have settled in with the eldest son Ned (Ledger) ends up getting into trouble with the law, that has always targeted his family, seeing him placed in prison for a couple of years. Once out Ned does start to try and turn his family’s luck around with his friends Joseph Byrne (Bloom) and Aaron Sherritt (Edgerton), while working for an English family where Ned falls for Julia (Watts).

When Ned gets framed for assault by the constable that has always been out for his blood, his family gets targeted, but not the police are not going to stop until they have his head, forcing Ned to go on the run to protect his family, making him one of the most wanted criminals in the world.

Thoughts on Ned Kelly

Characters – Ned Kelly is a young Irish man that has always seen his family targeted by the law, he has gotten himself in trouble because of this, which sees him falsely accused and becoming a target. Ned refused to back down from the law needing to go on the run, leading to him becoming an outlaw taking from the rich inspiring the poor as he fights for what is right and his family’s pride. Joseph Byrne is Ned’s best friend, he will stand by his side through his battles, needing to do the right thing. Superintendent Francis Hare is the man charged with capturing the Kelly gang, he doesn’t want to hear the story, he just wants them gone. Julia Cook is an English woman that Ned was working for, she is one of the few that will help him seeing the good in his nature, but being held back by her own family.

PerformancesHeath Ledger does a great job here showing how he wanted to break his pretty boy image, this performance makes this happen with ease. Orlando Bloom in the supporting role is strong without being truly great, while Geoffrey Rush feels wasted, with him being involved but not getting too much screen time, same goes for Naomi Watts, she just doesn’t get enough time to shine.

StoryThe story here follows the innocent man that gets forced into become an outlaw who becomes the most wanted man in Australia. This story shows how settlers in other countries would always be unfairly targeted by the locals who saw them as threats, how people’s words could create outlaws because nobody would listen or understand the truths within a world. The story is only really told from Ned’s which will always make him look like the innocent man he was, but we do hear and see that most of the group have served time, so they might not be as innocent as they look (this is only from what the film shows, not what I know about the truth).

Action/Biopic/WesternThe action is everything you would expect from a western, we have seen the shooting like always. The biopic does only show one side of the story and it does feel like there is more to tell.

SettingsThe film utilises the location to show how Ned Kelly has to go into hiding and including the showdown.


Scene of the Movie – The showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It does seem one sided.

Final Thoughts This is a by the book biopic that showed one of the most famous outlaws in Australia, though it doesn’t seem to reach an intensity level that it could have.

Overall: Nice biopic.

ABC Film Challenge – Action – B – The Ballard of Lefty Brown (2017)

Director: Jared Moshe

Writer: Jared Moshe (Screenplay)

Starring: Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Stephen Alan Seder, Kathy Baker, Joseph Lee Anderson, Tyson Gerhardt, Jim Caviezel

 

Plot: A thrilling and action-packed Western, The Ballad of Lefty Brown is a story about loyalty, friendship, and the relentless pursuit of justice.


Tagline – He never wanted to be the hero.

Runtime: 1 Hour 51 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Slow Western

 

Story: The Ballard of Lefty Brown starts when Edward Johnson (Fonda) is heading to senate wanting to leave his loyal friend Lefty Brown (Pullman) in charge of his ranch. When Edward is murdered, Lefty wants to do his friend justice by hunting down the men that killed his friend and is joined by US Marshall Tom Harrah (Flanagan).

On the journey to learn who was behind the murder, Lefty and Tom leave fellow friend Jimmy Bierce (Caviezel) with Edward’s wife Laura (Baker) as we learn the bigger picture of just who was behind the murder.

 

Thoughts on The Ballard of Lefty Brown

 

Characters – Lefty Brown is the slacker best friend of the senator, he has often been bailed out by his friend which has built trust between the two, he is going to be left to look after the ranch only for Edward to be killed, Lefty wants to hunt down the killer, only he becomes the prime suspect, can he solve his friend’s murder before it is too late. Edward is the senator about to go on a trip wanting to leave his old friend in charge of his land, he has always been the one person to stick up for Lefty through his difficult times. Laura is the wife of Edward that has doubted Lefty’s abilities for a long time falling for the bigger plan in play. Jimmy is the older friend of the two, he has become a US Marshall that will do what he wants to put himself in play for the position he wants.

PerformancesBill Pullman does the best he can with the character which strangely does feel like a character David Arquette would normally be playing. He does give the strongest performance in the film, this is mostly because the rest of the cast don’t get enough time to shine rather than they are bad.

StoryThe story follows a character named Lefty Brown who is considered the weakest member of the team that most have given up on that must figure out who murdered his friend, the one that remain support him, along the way he must prove he wasn’t involved and that he can uncover the truth which is close to home. Now in classic western style we get to follow Lefty as he learns how things unfold and shows that every dog can have his day. It does have twists along the way which you can see coming because we don’t get enough time to be misled along the way. We have a slow pace which does work for the film as we get to learn from the young man Lefty meets about his past which inserts us into the story.

Action/WesternThe action in the film is tame, we get the basic gun firing which for the time the film is set makes sense because we can’t have endless bullets flying, though it isn’t the most gripping. There is a western theme through the whole movie which does make work for the film without being anything overly deeper than it needs to be.

SettingsThe film does have the western theme running through it with the locations being used helping it easier to identify the time the film is set in.


Scene of the Movie –
Lefty gets the truth.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The pace is too slow for me.

Final ThoughtsThis is a slow moving western, it does try to recreate the classic tone which just didn’t click on the ways it once did, Pullman is the standout of an average cast with a story that is mostly forgettable.

 

Overall: Western that never really gets going.

Rating

 

 

The Searchers (1956) Movie Review

Director: John Ford

Writer: Frank S Nugent (Screenplay) Alan Le May (Novel)

Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, John Qualen, Olive Carey, Henry Brandon

Plot: An American Civil War veteran embarks on a journey to rescue his niece from the Comanches.


Tagline – He had to find her… he had to find her.

Runtime: 1 Hour 59 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Typical Wayne Western

Story: The Searchers starts Civil War soldier Ethan Edwards (Wayne) visits his brother in a small Texan house, when he goes to investigate a local incident his family is butchered by Comanches, with them kidnapping the 9-year niece.

Ethan is joined by Martin Pawley (Hunter), Rev Samuel Johnstone (Bond) and other men looking to revenge, who are tracking down the Indians that butchered the family in search of their lost relative

Thoughts on The Searchers

Characters – Ethan Edwards is a celebrated Civil War Solider that after the war ends still holds a grudge against the Native Americans, when his family is butchered, he leads the hunting party towards them, determined to find the remaining family members, which will take him years. Martin Pawley is the young man that wants to help Ethan, despite the fact he doesn’t want help, he will leave the love that is under his nose to go on this risky business. Laurie Jorgensen is the love of Martin’s, she has always waited for him, supported him and wants him to stay back and not go on the rescue adventure.

PerformancesJohn Wayne is the lead in the film and did what he always did, dominated the screen with his performance that you will know it is him. Jeffrey Hunter is the supporting role does well without getting too much time to outshine Wayne, while Vera Miles does perform well when she gets the screen time.

StoryThe story here follows a former civil war solider that goes on the hunt for his enemies that have butchered his family and kidnapped his niece, an adventure that will take years for him to recover the truth. When it comes to the western story, we get a pretty typical idea for a story, the heroic cowboy needing to fight the ‘evil’ Indians or now Native Americans, this does everything that idea has given us without do much more around it. We really don’t get overly tested, but this formula was what worked for the release era, but just isn’t edgy enough for the modern audience.

WesternThis is everything you would imagine a western to be, it would be listed under most searches and shows just how the battle between cowboys and Indians was perceived.

SettingsThe film does bring us a couple of the most iconic movie sets of all time, with the mountain range always being something people will known.


Scene of the Movie – Over the ridge.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Just way the cowboys look at the Native Americans.

Final Thoughts This is everything you could imagine from a western, without testing the audience along the way.

Overall: By the book Western.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) Movie Review

Director: George Roy Hill

Writer: William Goldman (Screenplay)

Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, Jeff Corey, George Furth, Cloris Leachman

Plot: Wyoming, early 1900s. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are the leaders of a band of outlaws. After a train robbery goes wrong they find themselves on the run with a posse hard on their heels. Their solution – escape to Bolivia.


Tagline – They’re taking trains… They’re taking banks… And they’re taking one piece of baggage!

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: True Classic

Story: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starts in the 1900s where Butch Cassidy (Newman) and his outlaws, including his trusted best shot The Sundance Kid (Redford) are looking for their next score, which sees them doing a double on the same train, the second robbery sees them needing to go on the run from ruthless bounty hunters.

Butch and Sundance go to their normal haunts to escape, which this time just don’t work, they look to head to Bolivia for freedom, only to learn that the toughest lawman and the best tracker are hot on their trail.

Thoughts on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Characters – Butch Cassidy is the leader of the outlaws, he knows how to talk himself out of any situation, keep his gang in order and he won’t kill anybody unless the situation calls for it, he wants to not leave a trail of bodies behind him. The Sundance Kid is the quickest shot in the land, he never misses his target and is loyal to Butch. The pair together are a lethal combination that will get the robberies done is the most efficient manner. Etta the lover of Sundance, a school teacher who is still single at 26, which has already put her in a bad bracket for the society, she doesn’t get involved in the robberies, but does join them when they go on the run.

PerformancesPaul Newman and Robert Redford are both fantastic giving career highlights in their roles, they have wonderful chemistry which shines through the film and helps on the adventure the two characters find themselves on. Kathrine Ross completes the main cast which sees her standing toe to toe with the male leads.

StoryThe story here follows the notorious outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who have been robbing banks for years until their latest job does wrong and sees them needing to go into hiding in Bolivia, with trackers and lawmen after them. This is one of the classic movies of all time, it does show one of the most famous outlaw partnerships in American history and we get to follow them when they are at the peak of their reputation, where they must deal with consequences of the people that want to end their robberies. Like most of the westerns for the time, we get the outlaws that come off charming for the most part, which does seem to be the way, lets make the criminals the popular ones and the lawman the villainous figures, sure the pair didn’t kill people and their reputation is key to how the country thought of them. It is a fun watch with comedy playing into how the story is told, which is fun to see.

Biopic/CrimeThe biopic side of the film is how the film is loosely based on the real story behind the two outlaws, it shows us just how the two went on the run after getting caught too deep in the world of the crime that they had become famous for.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show us the world that the two men would be operating in, first the American side as well as the Bolivian side of their adventure.


Scene of the Movie – The last stand.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We could have learnt more about their robberies before the one that went wrong.

Final Thoughts This is a fun western that shows us two of the most famous outlaws in the land, it has excellent chemistry between the leads and flows wonderfully.

Overall: Must watch classic.