Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius, Rory McCann
Written by: John Maclean
Directed by: John Maclean
MPAA Rating: R for violence and brief language
Running Time: 84
Date: 05/17/2015

Slow West (2015)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Jay and Silas' Job

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer/director John Maclean — a musician and former member of The Beta Band — makes a noteworthy feature debut with this Western. Slow West definitely revels in the glories of the genre, and its frame is filled with beautifully composed shots, graceful movements, masterful uses of color, light and dark; and striking images of man at odds with his environment.

In 1870, young Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) crosses the Western frontier alone, searching for his beloved Rose (Caren Pistorius). Finding himself held at gunpoint by a band of killers, he is suddenly rescued by an outlaw, Silas (Michael Fassbender). Silas offers to take Jay to his destination for a fee, and off they ride. They have many strange, absurd, and troubling encounters before running into Payne (Ben Mendelsohn), a former cohort of Silas's. Jay soon learns that his Rose has become a wanted outlaw, the target of bounty hunters. Jay tries to get to Rose in time to protect her, but Silas may have other plans.

Many shots are simply beautiful, such as one in which the Jay character pauses to listen to some music. Others are bemused, such as when Jay wanders into the wrong camp and overhears an amusing story. But this is no traditional Western; Maclean's taste for the absurd creeps in around the edges — as when the characters coolly observe the corpse of a man crushed by a tree he was chopping down — sometimes causing unexpected laughs. The cast is terrific, especially Michael Fassbender, who makes a fine Western outlaw, even if his character is kept at a bit of a distance through murky motivations.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray brings this movie's striking outdoor look to your home system in a grand way. (Hopefully people who say they don't like Westerns will give it a shot.) Sadly, the only extras are a short studio-produced featurette, and two deleted scenes. An Ultraviolet digital version is also included.

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