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Magnificent Seven photo
Not that magnificent
When you're discussing The Magnificent Seven you're discussing some serious pedigree. The movies it is based on are two of the greatest of the genres (samurai and western) so remaking it is a daunting task. I thought tha...

Magnificent Seven photo
Magnificent Seven

First look at Denzel Washington in The Magnificent Seven

Still not as cool as Steve McQueen
Apr 19
// Matthew Razak
As far as remakes go (or in this case remakes of remakes) it's pretty easy to actually get excited for The Magnificent Seven. Antoine Fuqua is directing Denzel Washinton in a Western. After The Equalizer that's pretty ea...
Dark Tower photo
Maybe Roland will finally make it
I was pretty confident that this round of "we're making a Dark Tower" movie was going to end in the same way all the others did: cancellation. However, they got a director and then there were casting rumors and now we have ac...

The Hateful Eight 70mm photo
The Hateful Eight 70mm

Here's a list of cities showing Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight in 70mm

Cast will be at select 70mm screenings
Dec 14
// Hubert Vigilla
Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight is one of our most anticipated films of the year. (Look for the review by our own Alec Kubas-Meyer in the coming days.) The film will be out on Christmas Day in 70mm format before releasi...

Dark Tower photo
Dark Tower

Matthew McConaughey up for villain role in The Dark Tower

The Man in Black is all right, all right
Nov 17
// Matthew Razak
If you said to me that Matthew McConaughey was going to star in The Dark Tower films being made I'd instantly think he'd be playing Roland, the Stephen King series's protagonist. However, Variety is reporting that he's b...
The Revenant photo
The Revenant

Second trailer for The Revenant nearly as crazy as the first

I ain't afraid to die anymore
Sep 29
// Matthew Razak
If the stories are true the shoot for Alejandro G. Iñárritu's The Revenant was particularly brutal and I think it shows. The first trailer was ballsy, but this one is just visceral as all hell. It...
Hateful Eight photo
This looks... kind of normal
So I'm guessing I'll be hitting up an unpopular opinion here, but this first trailer for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight isn't really getting me that excited. It's probably the trailer itself and nothing to do with...

Hateful Eight photo
Hateful Eight

New Hateful Eight image rides into town

Does this look like a bad photoshop?
Jul 02
// Matthew Razak
EW is giving its Comic Con preview this week and that means it has a ton of new looks including all those first looks at Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Just slight less exciting (or more, depending on your opinion of su...

Review: Slow West

May 25 // Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
[embed]219486:42403:0[/embed] Slow WestDirector: John MacleanRelease Date: May 15, 2015Rated: R   In its short runtime (just 85 minutes), Slow West introduces us to the odd couple, Jay (Kodi Smith-McPhee) and Silas (Michael Fassbender), who wander through the 19th Century frontier to a reach Jay's lost love, Rose (Caren Pistorius). Jay and Rose were born and raised in Scotland, and where Jay sees a love interest, Rose sees the younger brother she never had. For reasons unknown, Rose and her father (Game of Thrones' Rory McCann) emigrated to the outskirts of Colorado. They live in a small house in the midst of a vast field of corn and grass, like a picturesque postcard of colorful and untouched nature. Their home is an idyllic one, representing calmness and solitude, and where the only disturbance seems to be a friendly native that once in awhile shows up to partake in their freshly made coffee. It represents the destination of Jay and Silas' journey across the treacherous lands, and it is an enviable one. However, danger lies between them in more ways than one, as a small group of bounty hunters are following their tracks, lead by Payne (Ben Mendelsohn). This concept of beauty and calmness is recreated and reinforced by the cinematography of Robbie Ryan. He manages to use the New Zealand woodlands to capture a lost age on film, and every frame is composed with care and dedication. His magnum opus is a late action scene, where he singlehandedly strengthens the entire movie with his observant lens. As gunmen appear and disappear in a low cornfield – like a bloody game of Whack-A-Mole – the stationary composition makes for a fantastically hilarious scene, and one would have been dead on arrival in the hands of a lesser cinematographer. As the film rushes by – and it does – our two compadres cross paths with a handful of fun and interesting characters, from a Swedish family to a mysterious, lone researcher and, of course, a run-in or two with the bounty hunters. They are all caricatures of the Western genre. Silas is the archetypical lone wanderer who cares little – and says even less – but may find redemption through an unlikely friendship. Jay is the innocent and pure, who follows his heart and still believes there is love in a world where a single coin could have you killed. The bounty hunters are... bounty hunters, but Ben Mendelsohn almost steals the show as Payne. Although he only makes a few appearances, the man in the comically large fur coat makes plenty of it with a love for absinthe and drunken gibberish.  Although the dialogue is fairly scarce, Slow West seems intent on saying something with it. Mendelsohn's Payne is a fair example (so is Fassbender's Silas), but most intriguing is the lone researcher. I hesitate to quote him, as I always support the idea of seeing a movie as blind as possible, but his short appearance is mysterious in more ways than one. The best way I can describe him is with a parallel to the video game, Red Dead Redemption, where you can meet a man dressed all in black, who appears and disappears as he pleases – always with a thought-provoking word for you. What it all means, if anything at all, is up for you to decide. In any case, this mysterious researcher in Slow West lingers in my mind still.  And thus we've come to the movies biggest draw: its comedy. Slow West is absolutely hilarious at times. It is bleak and black, like something pulled straight from a Coen brothers movie or a less-polished Tarantino gag. At one point, Jay and Silas comes across a skeleton crushed by a tree, with an ax in its hand. They make dispassionate comments about Darwinism and move on. In the final action sequence, the entire crew must have had a field day a work as it may be the funniest explosive climax to a Western movie since Django Unchained. However, the comedy isn't omnipresent and disappears completely in certain scenes, leaving us with a movie lost between two states.This is not to say I dislike cross-genre movies, au contraire, I can really love them, but to attain my love, it has to function as a whole. Whenever a movie can't function like this – caught between two genres – the end result is one which struggles to find its own identity. A movie can be as beautifully shot, directed or acted as it wants to, but without its own identity – its own soul – it will never be remembered for long.  Slow West is without a doubt a fun and, above all, efficient ride. Too many movies overstay their welcome, and there's something to be said for a filmmaker who respects the audience's time. Maclean proves this with Slow West.
Slow West photo
Michael Fassbender is Sad Silas
John Maclean's feature debut, Slow West, is an ambitious one. It is a pastiche of the classic American westerns – a celebration of the genre – and comparisons and parallels to master directors like Quentin Taranti...

Hateful Eight Images photo
Eight is great
If ever a film had a strange road to the screen it's The Hateful Eight, but after a cancellation and a strange live reading it is coming and we now have our first look at the titular eight. EW brings to us the line up of all ...


The first trailer for Slow West is visually stunning

Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn star in hilarious and thrilling western
Mar 24
// Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
A24 should be everybody's favorite movie distribution/production company at this point. With movies like Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring, Enemy, Under the Skin, The Rover, Locke, Obvious Child, A Most Violent Year and the up...

Review: The Homesman

Nov 14 // Megan Porch
[embed]218594:41972:0[/embed] The Homesman Director: Tommy Lee Jones Release Date: November 14 2014 Rating: R The Homesman is Tommy Lee Jones' second feature film as a director. It's always interesting to see when an actor decides to branch out and try another aspect of film making. Sometimes it's a massive failure, sometimes it's a success. In this case, I'd call it a success. This film is not a typical gun-slinging fast pace western. It's a quiet, lonely tale about people who are forced to rely on each other in extraordinary circumstances. Jones handles the emotional nuances of the story well, while also making sure things don't feel like they're dragging.   Hilary Swank is easily the star of this film. There are a lot of questions about Mary Bee Cuddy that go unanswered, but I found that I didn't mind that. Swank portrays an independent woman in a time when such a thing was pretty scandalous, but at the same time, it's clear that her character does want some sort of companionship. We just never really know why she can't find it. Not only did Tommy Lee Jones direct, co-write, and produce this film, he also starred in it. His performance is pretty typical from him; he's good at crusty old men. Hilary Swank pretty much outshines him, but I did like their interaction. The two cameos in The Homesman include Meryl Streep and James Spader. Streep plays a preacher's wife at the end of the film and is lovely as always. My favorite part of this movie involved James Spader, who plays an innkeeper who refuses to let Briggs and company stay the night. Loneliness seems to be the major theme of The Homesman. The three women Cuddy is charged with each are on their own in different ways, and George Briggs starts out alone and ends up alone, as well. Cuddy, of course, is the one who truly suffers from loneliness the most. The three women are so far gone they're unaffected, and Briggs seems to prefer being on his own. But Cuddy puts on a strong face for her companions, even though on the inside, she may be hurting just as badly as the women she's helping. If you go into this movie expecting a traditional action-packed western, you will be disappointed. There are a few suspenseful moments, but all in all, it's more of a character study than it is a gun-toting adventure. The one actual fight in the film is clumsy and is basically just two guys rolling around on the ground, but I feel like that's more realistic than a lot of the badass fights other western movies have. All in all, I enjoyed The Homesman. It isn't a feel-good movie, and it certainly doesn't have a ton of action, but it left me with a respect for what people who lived in the frontier had to go through.    
The Homesman photo
Five crazy people in a wagon...
Life in the early days of pioneer life was harsh and unforgiving. The loneliness and desperation to make things work was enough to drive people to either do anything they could, or go mad trying. The glimpses of frontier life...

Hateful Eight photo
Hateful Eight

Tarantino's Hateful Eight gets synopsis, full cast revealed

Nov 07
// Nick Valdez
After months of struggling with a leaked script leading to rewrites, production for Quentin Tarantino's next film, The Hateful Eight, begins next January. Because it's so close, the Weinstein Company has released both the fil...

Denzel Washington to star in Magnificent Seven remake

Reuniting with director Antoine Fuqua and a whole lot of awesome
Sep 10
// Matthew Razak
A remake of The Magnificent Seven has been in the works for years now with Tom Cruise at one point attached (maybe he still is). But with Tarantino getting ready to drop The Hateful Eight, a Tarantino homa...

Hateful Eight official release date an 70mm love

Because the bigger the Tarantino the better
Sep 03
// Matthew Razak
Ready for some great news? Not only is Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight coming out next year in fall of 2015, but it will also be getting one of the widest 70mm release in years. Tarantino has been long bragging abo...
FFS: The Gunfighter photo
FFS: The Gunfighter

Flix for Short: The Gunfighter, a western with Nick Offerman as the narrator

Jul 01
// Nick Valdez
From director Eric Kissack and writer Kevin Tenglin comes The Gunfighter, a short western where a man walks into a saloon and soon everyone can hear the narration of the film. It's short, hilarious, and definitely worth a watch.  So much infidelity.  [via Short of the Week]

Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West

May 30 // Nick Valdez
[embed]217776:41552:0[/embed] A Million Ways to Die in the WestDirector: Seth MacFarlaneRelease Date: May 30, 2014Rated: R A Million Ways to Die in the West stars Seth MacFarlane as Albert, a man who doesn't belong in his time period. He's essentially everything the "Wild West" is not. He's cowardly, intelligent, and doesn't know how to shoot a gun. After getting dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried), he meets Anna (Charlize Theron), the wife of terrible criminal, Clinch (Liam Neeson), and prepares for a shootout with Louise's new boyfriend Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). And all the while, Albert is trying to avoid a horrible death brought out by living in the West.  Reviewing comedies is difficult. I believe I mention this every time I review a comedic film, but it especially bears repeating here. Seth MacFarlane has a particular brand of comedy, and your enjoyment of the film completely relies on how much "raunch" you're both willing to sit through, and find hilarious. I've got no problems with raunchy comedies, but I'm always going to consider the origin of each joke. At least in that way, I'm not going to sit here and tell you this film is "funny" or "not funny" and expect you to think the same. But, we can agree on one thing. A Million Ways is going to test your patience. Even when funny, A Million Ways drags out each joke and beats it like a dead horse.  A Million Ways plays out like an unearned Director's Cut version of itself. In a bit of self indulgence, MacFarlane's character Albert gets a ton of monologues/tirades in which he explains why the "Wild West" is such a bad place. Those speeches are indicative of the film's main problem: it's editing. It weirdly balances its comedy. In between scenes where jokes are fired in a rapid succession, you get long and stretched out patches that rely on the strength of one joke. And if the joke fails to land with you, you're going to definitely feel the length of the scene. Even when something works, however, it's continuous references throughout really kills all of its initial momentum. There are moments where gags don't get time to breathe without a character commenting on how "wacky" it is. For example, a block of ice kills a man, and rather just awkwardly soak in the absurdity of the situation, Albert yells how insane it is.  I wouldn't be focusing so much on why the comedy doesn't work if A Million Ways had something else of substance. Unfortunately, the film's unique premise (a cartoonish take on the "Wild West" from a modern perspective) is just a platform for easy jokes. Rather than create a story worth sitting through, we get a bare bones, generic western filled with excellent actors. It's missing a heart within its cynical view. There's almost no reason to stay engaged. But, as much as I didn't care about the events of the film, I did like seeing them happen. Anchored by great actors (except from Liam Neeson, who really can't do anything with what little he's given, and Sarah Silverman, who's just the butt of crude sex jokes), a lot of the film's jokes and pop culture references only work because Patrick-Harris' or MacFarlane's delivery. Say what I will about the humor, it's never done in a half-assed manner.  If you've read this far, you're probably still wondering whether or not you're going to throw your money at this. For this very situation, I have developed a litmus test. How funny does a thirty second poop joke sound to you (and that's not including all of the telegraphed build up to it)? Find it funny, add about ten to fifteen points to the score. Don't find it funny, take away ten points. All in all, A Million Ways to Die in the West is an okay film.  On a technical level everything looks good, the musical score is good, and the referential cameos are worth seeing, but everything else is hollow. A completely decent, forgettable comedy that'll get buried under every other great comedy hopefully coming our way this year.  Ted might've been a fluke. 
A Million Ways Review photo
We goin' straight to the Wild Wild West
Seth MacFarlane's directorial debut, Ted, was a welcome surprise. It was a mix of a charming friendship, un-ironic love of the 80s, and gratuitous amount of raunchy humor. Like the best episodes of MacFarlane's Family Guy, it...


Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways To Die In The West has an 8-bit game you can play

May 16
// Liz Rugg
A Million Ways To Die In The West, Seth MacFarlane's upcoming Western comedy movie, now has an 8-bit videogame counterpart online at Adult Swim. Perhaps capitalizing on the nostalgically easy-to-die-in games of the 80's 8-bit...

Western The Salvation gets a trailer

Cowboys being cowboys
May 02
// Matthew Razak
It's always interesting to check out a Western by a director who isn't American. The genre is so ingrained in American culture that seeing it tackled from an outside perspective is always interesting. This one will be Dutch ...

Tarantino drafting new Hateful Eight script

Did anyone really believe he wasn't going to make it eventually?
Apr 21
// Matthew Razak
The drama over Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight has been pretty crazy. After the script leaked online he swore he was going to put the film on the back burner, and then decide to hold a one-time only reading of the ...

Quentin Tarantino live reading 'Hateful Eight' script in Los Angeles

The Spectacular One Reads the Hateful Eight
Apr 03
// Jonathan Wray
Quentin Tarantino, understandably upset when the script to Hateful Eight leaked out in January, decided to shelve the project indefinitely. Fans were upset, taking to the streets with torches and pitchforks.. nah, just kiddin...

Green band trailer for A Million Ways to Die in the West

That title is way too long for any pithy headline
Feb 04
// Matthew Razak
Was the red band trailer for A Million Ways to Die in the West just too much for you? Then you're probably not going to want to see the movie because it's Seth McFarlane and that's what he's all about, but if you're sti...
A Millions Ways Trailer photo
A Million Jokes to Die in the West
I'm not sure how I feel about the first (Red Band) trailer for Seth MacFarlane's Ted follow up, A Million Ways to Die in the West. While Ted surprisingly bent buddy movie tropes and reveled in nostalgia, A Million Ways at fi...


8 new posters for A Million Ways to Die in the West

Get ready for some Western puns
Jan 29
// Matthew Razak
A Million Ways to Die in the West, Seth MacFarlane's Western comedy follow up to Ted, is busy putting the finishing touches on itself (sexual pun intended) for its May 30 release, and then means promotions are starting. No tr...

Quentin Tarantino Sues Gawker Media

When I first saw this, I gawked.
Jan 28
// Mike Cosimano
Recently, Quentin Tarantino filed a contributory copyright infringement lawsuit against Gawker Media, famous for publications like Kotaku, Vallywag, and (of course) Gawker. The suit claims that, by linking to a download of Ta...

New Django Film Announced

The "squee!" is silent
Jan 14
// Mike Cosimano
According to a press release from Point Blank Pictures, Franco Nero will reprise his famous role as the gunslinger Django in Django Lives: the canonical third installment in the Django trilogy. (Man, Django is a weird-lo...

First look at A Million Ways to Die in the West

No confirmation on if cactus hugging is one of the ways to die
Jan 02
// Matthew Razak
Here's a picture from A Million Ways to Die in the West, which is Seth MacFarlane's second directorial effort. It has many qualities such as people, hats and mustaches. You can discern some things from it such as it take...

Quentin Tarantino is doing another Western, apparently

Hey, remember the Tonight Show?
Nov 27
// Mike Cosimano
On the Tonight Show last night, Quentin Tarantino apparently announced that his next film would be a Western. That's great! I loved Django Unchained, it's no Inglorious Basterds, but it's an instant classic. Top two Tarantino...

Depp & Bruckheimer blame critics for Lone Ranger flopping

I think this is a mix of the first and second stages of grief
Aug 06
// Hubert Vigilla
The Lone Ranger is a box office flop that will lose Disney a lot of money. According to Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the reason the movie flopped wasn't its tonal shifts, poor screenplay, problematic depictions...

A full trailer has arrived for Yurusarezaru mono, the Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven starring Ken Watanabe and directed by Sang-il Lee. And man is it incredible. While the teaser trailer last year was very pr...

The Battle For A More Conscientious Tonto

Jul 05 // Liz Rugg
2013's The Lone Ranger marks the first time in history that an actor playing Tonto has received first billing. It's also the first time the character has been fleshed out in any sort of sense. In The Lone Ranger, we see an Indian who from an authenticity standpoint is initially infuriating. He is described as Comanche but looks and acts completely on his own, not adhering to actual Comanche practices and dress. For instance, the raven Tonto wears on his head is not a real practice of the Comanche people or any historical Native American group for that matter. The idea of the raven hat began, according to Depp, with a painting by artist Kirby Sattler which features a Native American man with a raven directly behind his head and the same facepaint as Depp wears as Tonto in the movie. The character in the painting is fictional and so is Depp's Tonto. However, the movie works very diligently to create a detailed back story for Tonto, explaining him and really creating a singular mythology of his own. Note: spoilers ahead! It is eventually revealed that Tonto is actually an orphan -- his family band was murdered by white men after the young Tonto showed the men where a large silver mine was located near their camp. When this back story is explained to Reid, the Comanche leader telling him the story explicitly says that Tonto is an outsider, has probably lost his mind due to this past traumatic event, and that some of the spiritual jargon that Tonto has been telling Reid is made up. This puts Depp's Tonto in an interesting place. Depp's Tonto is inauthentic, period. But the movie frames his character in a way where it acknowledges that he is inauthentic and gives a relatively reasonable explanation for it, making it all somehow acceptable -- swallowable?  -- that Tonto would act the way he does and have his own unique character traits, such as mimicking feeding his raven hat over and over again. The rest of the Native Americans portrayed in The Lone Ranger are more like the depictions of Native people we're used to seeing from Hollywood. They are one-dimensional side characters and are on the screen about as much as the Black house workers or the Asian silver miners. Despite having a brief moment where the Comanche leader and his gang break out into laughter at Reid's character, a rare humanizing moment, the Comanche people are depicted as a solemn, noble and doomed group of Indians who are eventually slaughtered by the misguided United States Army. The particular battle scene between the Comanche and the army is also treated very typically; the Comanche group drives its attack down a hill headfirst towards a single firing line and machine gun, even though they snuck up on the army and had the upper ground, and in reality the Comanche were extremely adept at warfare. This sort of easy, abbreviated and recognizable depiction of Native Americans is what we usually see from Hollywood throughout film history, and at large, the Comanche people in The Lone Ranger are really not breaking out of that. However, in Tonto we have Verbinski's attempt at a breath of fresh air. Even though Depp's Tonto is recognized as acting on his own and not trying to fit within a particular real Native American tradition, this does not make it un-critiqueable. Some people may have a problem with the idea of Johnny Depp, a man of no real Native American ancestry playing a character that is supposed to be Native American, but unfortunately this sort of ethnic role playing happens all the time in the film industry. This issue goes back to the early era of filmmaking, where, for example, D.W. Griffith cast a squinting white actor as "the Yellow Man" in the 1919 film Broken Blossoms. More recently, Memoirs of a Geisha caused a controversy because it employed actresses that were Chinese to play roles that expressed traditional Japanese life. Both actresses Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi were called traitors by both Chinese and Japanese people, and the film itself came under fire for being insensitive. Critically though, the film was very well-received and both Li and Ziyi's performances were praised. This sort of ethnic fudging does not necessarily ruin a movie, and from an acting standpoint ideally a movie should have the actors best suited for a role in every sense, but what makes The Lone Ranger problematic is that it becomes another movie made by people outside of a cultural group about a cultural group. Depp's Tonto may have a plot that allows some excusability, and his character may be a slight step forward in terms of a well-rounded Native American character in a Hollywood action flick, but The Lone Ranger is yet another movie with a colonial viewpoint. It's another flashy movie made for American popular culture with a colonial gaze on the Native American and on our shared history.  And ultimately, that's my problem with The Lone Ranger's depiction of Tonto and of Native Americans. In Tonto, Depp was able to craft the kind of superficial shaman-like character he seems like he's always wanted to play, but his character isn't solving any issues facing the treatment and representation of Native Americans in Hollywood. In fact, in many ways it reinforces them. Depp's Tonto may be well-intentioned, but it fails to portray Native Americans as anything more than a vanishing people infused with magical properties, endlessly romanticized and fictionalized by those who consistently undermine them. But, you know, at least they gave him screen time. [For more on Native Americans in film, I recommend the documentary Reel Injun by filmmaker Neil Diamond, as well as following the writings of Ojibway film critic Jesse Wente.]
Is Tonto still offensive? photo
An analysis of the characterization of Tonto in The Lone Ranger
The portrayal of Native Americans in film has been problematic for a long time. Going back as far as John Ford's 1939 western Stagecoach, the Native American has been stereotyped, truncated and even vilified by traditional Ho...


See the Lone Ranger early and free

Washington DC screening
Jun 19
// Matthew Razak
How do you spell hi ho? Is it like that? Hi ho Siliver, away! Or is it one word or hyphenated? I bet I could Google this and find out, but instead I'll just live in ignorance. While I'm pondering deep questions of the univers...
The Wild Bunch remake photo
The Wild Bunch remake

Will Smith to star and produce The Wild Bunch remake

May 15
// Nick Valdez
After turning down Django Unchained because he felt his character wouldn't be the hero, Will Smith now sets his eyes on another violent Western. This time it's a remake of The Wild Bunch, a film about a group of men who ...
The Lone Ranger Trailer photo
The Lone Ranger Trailer

Trailer: The Lone Ranger

Apr 17
// Nick Valdez
The final trailer paints The Lone Ranger as Pirates of the Caribbean (given all the Bruckheimer vibe) with a Jonah Hex skin. It's got the Ranger's origin story and how he meets Tonto (as a man who has been to the other ...

Review: Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley

Mar 25 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]211117:38538[/embed] Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley (Cheolam Gyekokui Hyeoltu | 철암계곡의 혈투)Director: Ji Ha-JeanRating: NRCountry: Korea There are a lot of great elements at work in Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley, but it's that odd thing where sometimes a movie just doesn't hit you when you feel like it's trying to. Or maybe in this case, the elements are there, but the movie just doesn't stick for some reason. The villains are a rowdy bunch of cusses led by a sociopath named Ghostface, and one of his henchmen is a sniveling, buffoonish little toadie that you want to see dead. The hero is stylish and stern -- a stoic machine with a snappy wild west fashion sense. And did I mention he wields a nail gun? (Unfortunately this sounds much cooler than it is in the film, and, if I remember right, it's only used in three or four scenes.) Filmed on a shoestring budget, Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley is a modernized revenge western, with some shades of Once Upon a Time in the West. (The jazzy, smoky bass riff on the soundtrack even reminds me a bit of the harmonica melody from the Leone film.) It's stylish, there are some solid set pieces, there are moments of torture that carry some sense of poetic justice. An early kill turns the bad guy's weapon against him, a later one is a bit of karmic retribution for an offense against a Buddhist temple. The film follows a man with no name out to get some toughs for a wrong they committed in the past, but it winds up revealing a larger plot about dirty water. A fair amount of Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley is spent away from our nameless avenger with the nail gun. Some of that time is spent watching Ghostface and his crew do their misdeeds, which helps reveal their ruthlessness, but another portion is spent with a hooker with a heart of gold. She's being used by her boyfriend to help rustle people into the makeshift casinos in town, and she's just starting to get a conscience about it. It's not that this isn't interesting per se, especially given the whole set up. An entire town full of undrinkable water is a den of grift and gambling and nothing else; our gunslinger has a nail gun instead of a six-shooter; our lead killer is named Ghostface. But it's all sort of diffused save for sudden punctuations of stylish violence. In trying to upend the expectations of revenge movies (and specifically ultra-violent Korean revenge movies), director Ji Ha-Jean creates an uneven, meandering experience. It's a bit like having a soup where I like the individual ingredients but I just don't care for the broth. Maybe the taste is not as complex as it could be -- the revenge seems so one-note, the story of the town seems interesting but not fully integrated, the plot doesn't really punch. The result isn't something watery or something bland, but Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley does feel like it could be stronger or could have been prepared differently. With all the cool elements at work, I wouldn't mind seeing the unsubtle revenge film version of this without any genre dismantling; I also wouldn't mind seeing another take on all this with greater focus on the revenge and the nature of our nameless hero's pursuit. It's only been a few days since seeing Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley, and I'm struggling to remember things about it. I recall snippets -- some of the action scenes (particularly interesting given the low budget); the savvy, snappy, cowboy outfit from our hero; the music box he carries with a spinning ballerina, which is the only thing he has left from his past, wound up and played as trigger point for memories and vengeance. But the overall impression of the film is getting lost in the fog of other NYAFF films. And even then, I can recall those movies distinctly since since they affected me more (even if the experience was negative and/or frustrating). What I do remember I liked well enough, and I remember when the movie ended I felt it was okay -- not good, but just okay. I may give Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley another watch in the future just to see if I was experiencing movie fatigue at the time. Or maybe I'll watch another revenge film. Maybe both just to see how Bloody Fight works as a coolly detached palate cleanse. Alec Kubas-Meyer: One of the things I like about Korean movies, and Korean revenge movies in particular, is that you really never know who is going to survive. Maybe the love interest will live, maybe she won't. Maybe that cute child will run away, or maybe he'll take a shotgun blast to the face. You assume that the good guy will get revenge in the end (Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley is a modern take on a Western, after all), but revenge doesn't necessarily mean victory. That ratchets up the tension of action scenes quite a bit, and tense action scenes are a good thing. Bloody Fight has some really great action sequences, but they are marred by a story that really isn't very interesting, and none of the characters are really fleshed out. Frankly, though, I think it's worth watching for the action scenes alone. I just wish they'd gone on a bit longer. Ax's death in particular could have used a bit more oomph. Ah well. 70 - Good
Bloody Fight photo
An interesting but not entirely memorable Korean revenge tale
[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival. It is being reposted as a reminder that the film will be screening for free tomorrow evening at the Tribeca Cinemas in New Y...


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