*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A drifter is left for dead and returns to the town that wronged him and his dog.
After a spate of disappointing low budget westerns including two featuring Scott Eastwood, In the Valley Violence is entertaining crafted with care. While it’s no Hateful 8, Unforgiven or Tombstone to name a few, known for his atmospheric horrors director Ti West offers a solid off beat modest Western.
With opening credits that are reminiscent of Sergio Leone’ Dollars trilogy and story beats which echo, John Wick and Rambo, West offers a Western in the vain of High Plains Drifter. It’s a dusty grim dead silver mining town, there’s no hustle and bustle. It’s a low key affair with a small cast including John Travolta as a tough mediating marshal who steals the show. Burn Gorman is notable as an intoxicated Priest. Ethan Hawke’s Paul is quite fleshed out, wanting to forget his past and get to Mexico. His dialogue with Taissa Farmiga’s Mary-Anne rings true. It’s really a James Ransone’s Deputy Gilly Martin versus Hawke’s Paul rather than Travolta versus Paul yarn. Abbie (Jumpy) the dog deserves a mention. Karen Gillan is worthy of note along with Eric Robbins’ cinematography who masterfully frames the makeshift town.
Although past West collaborator Jeff Grace’s score can be intrusive it oddly works better when it’s not channelling Ennio Morricone. Bloody and violent in places with a few shoot outs, a hanging and slit throat, Grace along with West build some effective tense moments and to Ti’s credit he also offers some humour that gives In a Valley of Violence a refreshing push.
It’s a pity that West’s marked as an army deserter Paul, didn’t emulate the Man With No Name rather than try hard to avoid clichés as the homage in context of the tale may have elevated the story more and satisfy fans looking for a resurgence of the Eastwood style.
While it’s paint by numbers stuff and won’t shake the genre, it utilises the emptiness in contrast to the big budget Westerns and wisely makes the small cast ensemble and empty town part of the story. Recommend.