A tortuous, violent and heartbreaking revenge film, superbly acted by two of Ireland’s best. This movie was a pivotal point in my life and actually got me watching westerns again.
Starting out in the snowy mountains, Gideon (Pierce Brosnan) is running for his life from a pack of inexperienced bounty hunters headed by the relentless Carver (Liam Neeson). after being shot he evades escape and heads down into the warm valleys while the group are constantly hot on his trails until they encounter a couple of very unusual characters in the hot desert who tempt them into their destruction or salvation. It’s brutal throughout it really doesn’t ever let up the violence apart from some strong dramatic scenes.
Both leads in this film are charismatic in their own rights and seeing them play off powerful emotions was very impressive. Neeson as the quick tempered and domineering Carver was akin to having Captain Ahab on a horse chasing down the one single thing that destroyed his world. in this instance the white whale is a hardened ex soldier, Gideon who got caught up in one mistake and brought down the wrath of Carver. Once you discover the backstory you can understand things from the points of view of both men and it’s a case of righter and wronger neither are right in their actions but both are doing what they feel is right by doing wrong.
An epic bounty hunt that take two of Ireland’s finest actors to the physical and psychological brink, a brutal, stark and highly entertaining journey that results in one of the most impressive westerns of the decade.
The giant landscape often dwarfs the actors and there is a lot of beautiful well handled scenes and is unmistakably the silent and most impressive actor in the film. There are the standard bad guys who have been hired by Carver, a rookie and some more experienced men, the most notable is Michael Wincott who plays Hayes, an especially brutish drunk bully.
As a first film from David von Ancken this feature that focuses in on the bounty hunt, does explore a lot of other historical topics including the treacherous railroad building in the US, post war violence and the mechanics of human survival. Not really the survival guide we would want to re create but it does beat out some Bear Grylls style scenarios involving Gideon going to the brink with his amazing knife and a dead horse.. I say no more.
Psychologically is brilliant, and teaches a lesson on preconceptions, as Gideon fumbles through a host of guests, a lone father and two children, a painfully corrupt railroad foreman and a group of religious nuts headed by the astute Minister Abraham (Tom Noonan) and in the later scenes Wes Studi appears and Charon and Angelica Huston rolls into the blistering desert dressed in red and selling cure all tonics, both offer each man something that will rescue him or ultimately make his bed in hell..
R – The assassination of Jesse James but the coward Robert Ford (20070 , 3:10 to Yuma (1957),Appaloosa (2008), Open Range (2003)
L – Selected Westerns,
5B – Angelica Huston, Tom Noonan, Wes Studi, Michael Wincott, Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson