Slow West

| July 11, 2015

I’ve always said that Western is not my favorite genre of film.  I think what put that idea in my head is how much I hate old John Wayne movies.  I think he was a terrible actor and not convincing as a hero type, and I associated that with the entire concept of Westerns to the point where I one day declared that I didn’t like them.  Most of the Westerns I’ve seen without John Wayne I actually really enjoy.  Unforgiven, High Noon, and even contemporary genre homages Django Unchained and A Million Ways to Die in the West are all really great.  I may get some flak for including the Seth MacFarlane western parody, but I think it’s really funny.

Given how effective the genre can be, I’m surprised it’s become so rare to see one these days.  Maybe because the capital r Romantic conventions of the genre are seen as old fashioned these days, but there’s something inherently interesting about a couple of cowboys on a quest for fame, fortune, or love.  Throw in a couple of gun fights and a mostly lawless setting, and things get interesting fast.  It’s storytelling at its basest level: here’s a character, here’s what he wants, here’s what’s standing in his way, here’s what he’s willing to do to get what he wants.

Slow West is definitely in the vein of the old classic westerns.  It features Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trying to make his way across the American west in search of the love his life, who is accused of murder and hiding out with her father in the middle of nowhere.  Jay employs a tough drifter named Silas (Michael Fassbender; X-Men: Days of Future Past) to get him safely across the savage country.  Things get complicated when an increasing number of bounty hunters looking for the girl and her father to collect the reward money of $2,000.

I really like Michael Fassbender.  His choices in movies remains consistently really interesting.  Going from this to a comic book movie to a Tarantino movie to a movie about sex addiction and bringing something new to every one of those various performances is exactly what I’m looking for in an actor.  I don’t know how he ended up in this little low-budget Western; I’d like to think he just wanted to play with guns and pretend to be Clint Eastwood, but it works.  I especially like how the film keeps his character’s motivations close to the chest – not telling us if he’s actually helping Jay, or just using him to collect the bounty himself.

Overall, it’s a great film for fans of the genre, complete with anti-heroes, shady characters, and shootouts.  Looks great on blu-ray too.  Special features include a digital copy of the film, deleted scenes, and a making of featurette.  Available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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