A spaghetti western whipped up and covered in sweet, sweet vengeance is something fans of the genre lick their lips over. West and his exceptional cast go beyond that, never settling on being standard.
Forget The Magnificent Seven. There's a new western in town and it goes by In a Valley of Violence. Directed by Ti West (The House of the Devil, Drinking Buddies), this unflinching oater rides in knowing exactly what it is with guns a blazing. West enters a classic roughen genre, and torches it with unexpected humor, avouch nastiness, and great fun.
Back on the horse again for the second time this year is Ethan Hawke as Paul, a mysterious drifter with demons he has not yet dealt with. In the opening scene with a drunk, helpless priest, we instantly know there's more to Paul than meets the eye. He's joined by his four-legged companion Abbie (emotionally portrayed by Jumpy the dog), and Mexico is where they're headed. They can get there a lot quicker if they cut through the ghost town of Denton. The place is no good and neither are most of its inhabitants.
Paul can't even finish his glass of water before running in to trouble with a brash band of dipsticks, the loudest of them being Gilly (James Ransone). Paul silences his big mouth in front of the whole town. Probably felt good, but not a good idea. And once Gilly's father, the callous Marshal (John Travolta), hears about it, it can't go unnoticed.
Gilly won't allow for Paul to just walk away. At least not before an inexpiable act of violence is committed. What happens next leaves the dirt in Denton soaked in blood. You just don't mess with a man's dog.
Hawke's Goodnight in Mag 7 is one of the few absorbing characters with an actual past. And as Paul, his past looks very familiar, regrets eating away at the soul. Hawke can interpret just about anything, and in his cowboy hat and boots, Paul shoots from the hip and his aim is dead on. Likewise, Travolta is back and excellent at being despicable. He's more than that actually. Marshal is a forgiving father and a real jokester during grave times. Still a bastard though. There's just no getting around it.
The only bit of love in this wild tale comes from Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga) and Ellen (Karen Gillan), two sisters running the only hotel in Denton. Mary-Anne's husband left long ago, so when a stud like Paul pops up in your town, she takes notice. Though, for her safety, the further away from Paul the better. Ellen spends her time making excuses and trying to see the positive in Gilly, her fiancee. Their taste in men is polar opposite.
A spaghetti western whipped up and covered in sweet, sweet vengeance is something fans of the genre lick their lips over. West and his exceptional cast go beyond that, never settling on being standard. No one is bringing the style and delivery like In a Valley of Violence can to a stand-off.