Reviewed by: Gabriel Mohler
|Featuring:||Ethan Hawke … Paul
John Travolta … Marshal
Taissa Farmiga … Mary-Anne
James Ransone … Gilly
Karen Gillan … Ellen
Toby Huss … Harris
Tommy Nohilly … Tubby
Larry Fessenden … Roy
Michael Davis … Dollar Bill
James Cady … Bartender
Burn Gorman … Priest
K. Harrison Sweeney … William T. Baxter
Jumpy … Abby
|Director:||Ti West—“The Roost” (2005), “The House of the Devil” (2009), “The Innkeepers” (2011), “The Sacrament” (2013)|
As a reviewer, sometimes movie buffs like to ask me “What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?” My response is usually something like “Oh, I don’t know, maybe this one, or maybe that one…” Well, not anymore. The next time someone asks me that question, I will promptly respond “In a Valley of Violence.”
As a clarification, I don’t mean it’s morally the worst. I’ve seen films with worse messages and worse content. But as a movie, this film takes the cake as the most terribly made, atrociously written, worthless, unoriginal film I have ever seen.
When I saw that Ethan Hawke was going to be in another Western, I was excited. He proved to be a great cowboy in an earlier film of the year, “The Magnificent Seven.” John Travolta was also a good casting choice for a sheriff. Unfortunately, all that talent is wasted on a script so bad it’s unintentionally funny. Furthermore, a good Western makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the Old West. This film doesn’t even come close. The sets are painfully bland.
Morally, the messages are kind of mixed. The “hero” does some unethical things, albeit to unethical people. When Paul (Ethan Hawke) knocks out a man in self-defense, the man comes back to kill Paul. Paul is left for dead and comes back to kill off the gang. Considering the criminal justice system of the Old West, this could be justified, because the gang had boasted to him before of how murderous they were. One could argue that Paul was doing the right thing by saving the town, when there was no one else who could. However, that does not seem to be his motive. He expresses more anger over the fact that the men killed his dog Jumpy, than anything else.
The violence in this film is also very uneven. There’s barely any blood during the shootouts, but it has one of the most graphic throat-slitting scenes I’ve ever seen. The only other gratuitous scene is when a man gets gunned to death with several bullets. I have no idea why they picked that character to suffer the most brutal death during the end shootout; it only worsened the story, when I thought it couldn’t get any worse.
As for other objectionably material, there are 10 uses of g*d-d**n, 5 of the f-word (one with mother), 8 of h**l, 12 of s**t, 4 of a**, and a few vulgar sexual insults. Some men are shown shirtless while bathing, and female hotel attendants are present, but the situation never becomes sexual.
Ti West’s previous work has had hit moments and miss moments, but he completely bombed it with this one. Many critics have called it “entertaining,” and I guess if you like mindless, thin revenge stories, it holds up pretty well. But I don’t like mindless, thin revenge stories; and there is absolutely nothing in this film that would raise it above that level. If this is how we pay homage to John Wayne, he is rolling over in his grave.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.