In a Valley of Violence full movie review - Dreadful Western Wastes Travolta
Hollywood reminds us once again what happens to slimy dastards that kill a man's dog. Initially, this heinous act happened in the 2007 Mark Wahlberg thriller "Shooter.
" Next, it showed up in the Brian Cox movie "Red" (2008), while most recently the hero's doggie was killed in the Keanu Reeves' shoot'em up "John Wick." Writer & director Ti West's bloodthirsty western saga "In the Valley of Violence" appropriates this premise for its slow-burn horse opera graced with fine performances by Ethan Hawke and John Travolta. This far from memorable, low-budget oater boasts impeccable production values. The Cerro Pelon Ranch in Galisteo, New Mexico, where the action transpires looks terrific. Although it is obviously a movie set, the producers have touched it up so it looks like a run-down town instead of a run-down set. Eric Robbins' widescreen cinematography is first-rate. Moreover, he lensed this movie on 35-millimeter film. The pictorial compositions lack interesting angles, suggesting that West helmed the action quickly. The most objectionable thing about this western is the murder of a canine. Mind you, you don't see the poor pooch bite the dust, but discretion makes the violence palatable. The big surprise that occurs 91-minutes into this western is one the last thing you may expect considering the caliber of talent involved. The chief problem with "In the Valley of Violence" is the loutish villains who pose little threat to our resolute hero. Travolta seems wasted as a lackluster, one-legged sheriff who cannot make a believer out of his rebellious son. The opening credits sequence is an obvious but admirable homage to Sergio Leone's classic "A Fistful of Dollars." Our mind-his-own-business kind of hero, Paul (Ethan Hawke of "Training Day") makes the terrible mistake when he rides into the mining community of Denton rather than riding around it on his way of Mexico. He clashes with the son of the local sheriff, Gilly (James Ransome of "Broken City"), and beats the cowardly braggart in a fair fight. Actually, he smacks Gilly in the face with a bowl and breaks his nose. Marshal Clyde Martin (John Travolta of "Pulp Fiction") observes that the fight was fair. Nevertheless, he runs Paul out of town because he suspects that he is an army deserter. West provides some eerie flashback scenes of Paul in an army uniform with a rifle. Paul has made his way through the west with a collie mix named Abbie that is his beloved pet. After he heeds Martin's warning and leaves Denton, Paul is crouched around a campfire talking to his Abbie when the vengeful Gilly and his lamebrained cronies emerge from the darkness. Gilly shoots and stabs Paul's dog to death, and Paul vows that he will liquidate all four of them. Gilly's henchmen push Paul off the side of a mountain. Of course, these villains neglect to check that Paul died during his rocky descent. Predictably, Paul survives the fall, and he rides back into Denton. Once back in Denton, our resourceful sneaks into a hotel and catches Gilly's paunchy henchman Roy (Larry Fessenden of "Hellbenders") as he is soaking in a bathtub. Paul reminds him about the events of the previous evening before he slashes his throat. Sheriff Martin finds Roy's body and sends Gilly into hiding with two women. Later, Paul sneaks up behind another henchmen, Harris (Toby Huss of "Cowboys & Aliens"), that Martin has posted on a store rooftop with a repeating rifle, and kills him. We don't see Paul pull the trigger on Harris. Instead, all we see the reaction that Martin has when he hears the gunfire. Meantime, Paul blows a hole through the chest of the third henchman, Tubby, and kills him with this well-aimed shot. The resolution features a twist since Paul doesn't get a chance to kill Gilly as he had promised; this distinction is left up to someone else. "In the Valley of Violence" is Travolta's first western, and we never see him swing astride a horse. He plays an unsavory character with little steel in his blood. Nobody makes a strong entrance in his oater. West doesn't milk the situations for a modicum of suspense. Presumably, he was struggling to get this western made before either the budget elapsed or the stars left to fulfill other assignments. Unless you are a western completest, you should probably avoid this saddle-sore sagebrusher.