The Last Rites of Ransom Pride
It did seem an interesting film. The short blurb told us that it followed a woman trying to bring the woman she loved home for burial, and to be fair there was much more it than that, I had thought that we were going to see a perhaps tough and realistic western with a strong leading lady at the fore instead of the traditional man, but the story just never got a chance.
That is until the brother appears and his story seems to take the lead, Champ Pride, played by Jon Foster, seems to be little like his brother appearing at the beginning of the film as the son who stayed at home with his father the Reverend Pride, played by Dwight Yoakam. However once he sets on the trail with Flowers to get his brother's body back, he becomes more of the gunfighter that his brother was but with a lot less criminal and a lot more good guy.
Standing in their way is his own father who turns out to have a very shady past himself, the local killer, played by W. Earl Brown, and psychopath, surprisingly Jason Priestley, who are hired to kill Flowers and bring back Champ, and the strange mystical woman, played by Cote de Pablo, who holds on to the body of Ransom as, well, ransom.
At first it seems that Flowers doesn't have Champ's best interests at heart, but through their trials she realises that he's a much better man than she thought.
From the opening credits I started wondering what this film was going to be like as the credit sequence was very stylised and felt more like the opening to a modern horror film or action film than a western. It felt really out of place for what I was expecting, and yet that style continues through the film.
It's a feeling that followed right into the opening sequences where we see the instigating incident for the film, the gunning down of Ransom Pride. The sequences are filled with rapid fire cuts, music better placed in an action film and the thing that struck me above everything else, a modern day gun in the hands of the cowboy.
I was confused. How was a cowboy using a gun not unlike those you see in current police films?
I felt that confusion later when the car appeared, although I could accept that a little more than the motorcycle and sidecar, at least the car felt a little closer to the time frame I thought the film was set in. Yes, I was confused.
The film was full of surprises like this, but not any surprises you might be expecting. I was surprised that Cote de Pablo was playing a Pirates of the Caribbean type character, by the character of The Dwarf wearing the dark eyeliner, and the strange Siamese twins. Bizarre.
However there were aspects that really hurt the film for me, and it wasn't just the fragmented story but the constant recapping that seemed to happen after almost every scene. Mainly we would be treated to a very quick montage of key images from the scene in black and white with the occasional bright white flash and whooshing sounds and much more frantic music than was required. Well, it was either that or the character of the mystical woman telling us what just happened.
The story was fragmented though, and that's a shame because beneath all the oddities you can see that there's an interesting western trying to get out. I do feel that they could have stripped a lot of these issues we'd have had a much better western film.
A smaller niggle for me were the action sequences, both the fighting and the gun fighting, where the camera work and editing was so frantic I did think I was watching a Hollywood film, I really found it hard to follow what was going on, and that was really noticeable during the final fight.
Afterwards I chatted with a few other people who had watched the film with me and the general consensus was the same, they didn't like it. There were comments about the style and how they couldn't believe how low the budget was, something I didn't entirely agree with for if they are securing the talents of Cote de Pablo who is commanding bigger and bigger salaries for her NCIS appearances then the budget for the salaries must be pretty decent.
I didn't think it looked cheap, it just looked a bit of a mess.
A western that doesn't need the overbearing soundtrack nor the over-stylising that it has, and the repetitive feel it brings to the end of most scenes disengages the audience all too quickly.
Many things about the film feel wrong and not just the odd placing of a modern gun, the motorbike and the car, but strange characters and sequences, and there's just no need for any of this because there could really be a strong western that could come out of this.
I could see that there was a decent western story in there for about sixty minutes worth, but it wasn't a film that was meant to be, not in the current edit. It's a shame since some of the actors gave pretty good performances, with Caplan promising the most.
UK IMDB Film Details
Filmstalker's EIFF 2010 Reviews