|Ti West serves up Sweet Revenge in Texas.|
In a Valley of Violence (2016)
Dir. Ti West
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, John Travolta,
Jason Ransone, Karen Gillan, Larry Fessenden
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Who doesn't like a good western? Aside from a few knobs, pretty much everyone likes one. Writer-director Ti West (The Sacrament, The Innkeepers, You're Next) clearly enjoys westerns so much that he strapped six-shooters upon his cinematic mojo and damn well just made one.
And you know what? In a Valley of Violence is a darn tootin' good oater. Mildly revisionist, but mostly straight-up, the picture is replete with nods to Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter, Sergio Leone and Budd Boetticher whilst holding its own as a solid cowpoke revenge programmer.
Paul (Ethan Hawke), a former soldier with a mysterious past, stops in the one-horse Denton, Texas to replenish supplies. Accompanied by his beloved dog, he becomes acquainted with the spunky, sexy Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga), the restless little sister of hotel keeper Ellen (Karen Gillan). Local baddie Gilly Martin (James Ransone) moronically picks a fight with Paul and is soundly thrashed by our hero.
As these things must go, Gilly exacts revenge upon Paul, leaving him (and dog) for dead in the desert.
Paul comes back to town, driven by hate.
The inevitable killing spree ensues.
|Travolta's biggest challenge: Idiot Progeny!|
West's script is lean, mean and sprinkled with plenty of witty dialogue. As per usual, he displays a first-rate eye for action, editing the picture with hard-driving aplomb and garnering solid performances from his all-star cast. Hawke makes for a stellar and stalwart cowpoke hero, the villains (especially Ransome and Larry Fessenden) ooze the proper amount of nasty Peckinpah-like scum-baggery and the camera utterly adores the spunky Ukrainian-American Princess Farmiga (Vera's lil sissy) who spits her lines out like some perverse cross twixt Maddie Ross and Addie Pray.
The real fun is seeing John Travolta as the town marshall, a beleaguered father to a moron son. Dad doesn't want to kill, but he will if he has to defend the rotting fruit sired from his seed.
In a Valley of Violence might not be the most wildly original western ever made, but it is a damn solid one and offers considerable entertainment value from a filmmaker who is fast becoming one of the most reliable and talented young directors in America.
Finally, no summation of this picture's virtues would be complete without a special nod to Abbie the dog, a sweet animal who delivers a lovely performance. What happens to the dog shouldn't happen to a dog, but no matter. You will rejoice in the sweet revenge on the animal's behalf. It's a bloody beautiful thing.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-half Stars
In a Valley of Violence enjoys its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia 2016.