Wednesday, January 4, 2017

In A Valley of Violence (2016)

Paul (Ethan Hawke) and his dog, Abbie, on their way to Mexico stop in the desolate, dust-swept town of Denton run by Marshal Clyde Martin (John Travolta) and his son Gilly (James Ransone). In classic Western cadence, Gilly tells Paul to git, and ends up in a fight with the stranger, getting his ass kicked. The marshal knows his offspring is a dolt, recognizes Paul is an Army man—respects that fact—and directs him to move along peacefully. Gilly, still smarting from his public shaming, tracks down Paul, and with the help of three buddies, they throw him over a steep cliff. Paul survives and exacts revenge. Seems standard Western fare, right?

And it is, except in the hands of director Ti West, it's teeming with fresh, crisp direction, editing, and quite a bit of welcoming humor. The film jumps from brutal action and disturbing gore to laugh out loud slapstick. Travolta is a particular hoot as he tries to goad his scaredy-cat deputies into engaging Paul who is systematically picking them off. Ethan Hawke and Taissa Farmiga (playing a teen who wants to help Paul but is rebuffed) turn in some particularly strong performances. Hawke is tailor-made for the brooding stranger with a dark past, and after his roles in The Magnificent Seven and In a Valley of Violence, here's hoping he'll return to the saddle before too long.

Special mention for Jumpy who plays Abbie, Paul's canine sidekick. I haven't seen a dog since Asta (The Thin Man) or The Duke's mutt in Hondo with this much character, becoming such an emotional cornerstone of the movie.

9 comments:

Bill Crider said...

I've been wondering about this one. Thanks for the review.

David Cranmer said...

My favorite Western of 2016, Bill.

Neil Waring said...

I need to see this one - sounds good.

David Cranmer said...

A Top Western movie is so rare these days.

tontowilliams.com said...

I've missed this one too - looks like it's out here on dvd just before my birthday, so might be adding it to the wishlist! Thanks for the review.

David Cranmer said...

Alan, I hope others see the humor and 'fresh' take that I I saw. And happy early birthday to you!

Elgin Bleecker said...

David – Sounds like a good one. Thanks for the review. I am going to track it down.

David Cranmer said...

On Amazon video to rent, Elgin. I usually watch my films there or Netflix.

oscar case said...

I'll put this at the top of my list.