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In A Valley of Violence
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Ethan Hawke Rides Again"
4 stars

For everyone who has been in the mood to see a real Western on the big screen but came away from the recent remake of “The Magnificent Seven” thinking that it was nothing more than a contrived rehash of familiar things that failed to offer viewers anything new and wasted a good and eclectic cast at the same time, “In a Valley of Violence” is the one that you have been waiting to see.

Ethan Hawke (who also appeared in “The Magnificent Seven”) stars as Paul, an ex-solider with a haunted past who is on the way to the Mexican border with his only apparent friend, a loyal dog named Abby. While stopping in some one-horse town for some water for Abby, Paul runs afoul of local tough guy Gilly (James Ransone) and ends up humiliating the jerk. This arouses the interest of the town’s marshall (John Travolta. . . yes, John Travolta), a tough but reasonably fair man who knows that Gilly deserved what he got but who runs Paul out of town anyway in the name of keeping the peace. Unfortunately, Gilly is as tenacious as he is stupid and he and his pals ambush Paul and Abby at their campsite to get back at them for the earlier incident. As you can imagine, this does not set well with Paul and he returns to town in order to tap into his long-buried killer instincts and kill Gilly and his men for good while the marshall desperately tries to keep the situation from boiling over—from the title alone, you can pretty much guess how that works out for him.

The film was written and directed by Ti West, who has emerged in the last few years as one of the leading new talents in the horror genre with such films as “The House of the Devil,” “The Innkeepers,” “The Sacrament” and his contributions to such portmanteaus as “V/H/S/“ and “The ABC’s of Death.” This is his first stab at a Western but based on the evidence here, he has a strong grip on that genre as well with a story that starts off as a riff on the Clint Eastwood revenge classic “High Plains Drifter” and then spins off into unexpected directions that both pay homage to and wickedly subvert all of the usual conventions. The direction is strong and sure handed and handles the action sequences with the kind of clarity and precision that make the over-the-top histrionics of “The Magnificent Seven” seem even lamer in retrospect than they did at the time. The performances are also strong across the board—Hawke is very good as the hero with a dark past, Ransone is eminently hissable as the villain, Karen Gillan and Taissa Farmiga are both intriguing as a pair of sisters caught up in the middle and Travolta delivers one of his most surprisingly engaging turns in a long while as the marshall whose attempts to defuse the situation go horribly awry. However, the film is well and thoroughly stolen by a dog named Jumpy as Abby who turns in a performance far more lively and believable than those done by most two-legged actors that you or I could mention.

Funny, thrilling, gripping and, yes, filled with imaginatively staged carnage, “In a Valley of Violence” is definitely worth a look and while it will be available as a VOD selection, go see it in a theatre if you can so that it can be see the way it was meant to be presented.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=30088&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/21/16 11:35:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Chicago Critics Film Festival For more in the 2016 Chicago Critics Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/15/17 Mr Smoothie it's a nice! I like 4 stars
12/28/16 mr.mike Well worth seeing, but the humor towards the end detracts from the tension. 4 stars
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  21-Oct-2016 (R)
  DVD: 27-Dec-2016

  N/A (15)

  DVD: 27-Dec-2016

Directed by
  Ti West

Written by
  Ti West

  Ethan Hawke
  Taissa Farmiga
  James Ransone
  Karen Gillan
  John Travolta

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