You know the drill, people. I let a number generator pick a two digit number between 1 and 20, scroll down to that number, and along to that number, and review whatever resulting abomination (or golden goose) I land upon. Let’s get this done, shall we?
On a journey of tragically misguided love, young Scotsman Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) travels the wild, western frontier to reach his love after she flees their homeland years past. After a chance deadly encounter with the bounty hunter Silas (Michael Fassbender), the two set out to reach Jay’s lost love, no matter what the cost.
Director: John Maclean
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn
Writer: John Maclean
Straight away we have an issue with execution here. Out of the gate, the film seems completely confused by its mission statement. Half quirky, surreal comedy, half character driven drama piece, the film struggles with its identity throughout its pleasingly short 82 minute running time. The movie’s strange sense of wanting to remain a giggle-ridden buddy comedy stand in stark contrast with its sense of weight and grave severity. There are few finer examples than the point around the start of the films third act, in which we’re treated to a musical number courtesy of a fellow bounty hunter in a dark forest, after a slapstick-style flashback. Incredibly jarring, to say the least.
Moving on, the thing isn’t all bad, not by any stretch. For starters, the locations and craftsmanship here are top notch, with stunning, sweeping desert landscapes and picturesque forests taking up a large chunk of running time. Despite a few focusing issues in earlier scenes, the film looks incredible. The film is helped along massively by its conscious decision to stand firm on its stance on gore. Refreshingly, the film isn’t afraid to get nasty, and in some cases can get extremely so.
Acting here is of course of very high quality, something we’ve come to expect when the likes of Michael Fassbender are involved with the project. Putting on his best sarcastic snarl, Fassbender puts in a delightful performance as the cynical Silas, almost stealing the show entirely. However, the showing from newcomer McPhee is incredibly strong, and only serves to improve over the course of the movie, utilising a beautifully understated Scottish accent that I had trouble narrowing down myself. Notable work here also comes from the character of Payne, played by Ben Mendelsohn, putting on a superbly snakelike performance as the ‘old-friend turned enemy’ role.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack here is one of the biggest missteps the film couldn’t afford to take. Featuring an oddly ‘quirky’ score, the film’s musical contributions wouldn’t have sounded out of place on E4 on a Friday evening. To say its contrast is flawed would be an understatement, and the soundtrack quickly becomes incredibly distracting as the film races through it’s time on screen. Had the movie focused on its intentions a little more, the soundtrack might have sounded in place. Sadly, it detracts from what could have been a very good movie.
Slow West is an odd one, to be honest. Did I love the film? No, but did I hate it? Definitely not. Despite its tonal issues, the movie remains a fairly enjoyable western romp, albeit a messy one. In the end, a mess is the best way to describe Slow West. A mess, but a pleasing one, made up of a few very lovely things. Just a shame it couldn’t come together to form something great. 7/10