Facebook Twitter

SLOW WEST: 3 STARS. “Literate and stylish, this is an unconventional western.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 1.14.08 PM“Slow West” looks like a classic western, but there’s little here, other than the landscape, some gunfights and the campfire coffee, that John Wayne would recognize.

Scottish 16-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a man on a mission. He’s crossing the rugged 1870s American frontier in search of his true love, Rose (Caren Pistorius). Aiding him—and keeping him alive—on the trip is outlaw Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender). “You need chaperoning,” he says of the young man, whose main guide up until this point was a book called “Ho! For the West.” What Jay doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one on the hunt for Rose and her father (Rory McCann). There is a price on their heads and bounty hunters are starting to circle.

Literate and stylish, “Slow West” is an unconventional western, one that is more interested in taking its time to tell its slight story than amping up the action. It’s a love story, a mentor’s tale and an anthropological look into American history (even though it was shot in New Zealand).

First time feature director John Maclean is clearly more interested in setting the scene and exploring the characters than anything else, but he does stage two terrifically tense gunfights, the staple of any good western. The first, in a general store, is quiet, violent and memorable. The second, which provides’ the film’s climax, is a classic shootout, complete with bad men hiding in a cornfield and a bullet riddled farmhouse. Both are edge of your seat and are crucial to the story. There’s nothing superfluous in either scene.

“Slow West” features a surprisingly fleet footed and funny performance from Fassbender and a great villainous turn by Ben Mendelsohn to buoy the dramatic heft of the story.

Comments are closed.