Starring: Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Tommy Flanagan
Director: Jared Moshe
In their youth, four men rode the West, raised Hell, fought bad guys, and became heroes. Now in their golden years, Tom (Flanagan) has become a US Marshall, James (Caviezel) has become Governor, and Eddie (Fonda) has retired to a ranch, joined by his best friend Lefty Brown (Pullman). Lefty is loyal and grumpy, muddling his way through, and the one whom the history books tend to forget of the three. But when Eddie is shot, he swears revenge and heads out to get the rustlers who shot his dearest and oldest friend.
No one has a lot of confidence in his ability, but he’s soon joined by Tom and a young boy he meets along the way, and the story of his bravery begins. But what will unfold has more twists and turns than an angry rattlesnake.
You don’t see as many Westerns as you used to, but there have been a few really interesting ones lately (like Bone Tomahawk, for example) that have really brought the genre back. I love that this film is not just a straight line from death to revenge, with incidents along the way, but rather a film with twists and double crosses. It’s also a film that looks lovingly at old fashioned values, like friendship and loyalty, heroism and honesty, and by placing them in an historical landscape, makes us believe in them again, but also shows us that even in the good old days, these values and ideal were under threat, just like they are in the modern world.
The film also has fun with the idea that the stories that we tell ourselves about our times and our heroes are often not based in fact and truth. They’re twisted and changed by our need to tell a good story.
Though all the performances in this film are really good, Bill Pullman as Lefty is truly delightful. Grizzled and irascible, he seems to be a man who no one believes in and who others laugh at, and yet he’s the one who comes through. He’s wonderfully tough and familiar, like old saddle leather, and yet his vulnerability, his sense of guilt and loss, really pull at the heart strings. He’s an everyday hero, someone who is overlooked and who you’d never expect to do big things, but who takes on the mantle of justice because he has to.
Of course, all Westerns are a love letter to the American landscape, and this film is so beautiful with it’s wide, sweeping shots of horse and man in the wild outdoors, and it’s small, intimate moments of male bonding (don’t all Westerns have to have a little male bonding?). It’s not a re-imagining of the genre, it doesn’t do something new with it, but it takes us back to the roots of the Western, and gives us a great plot and a lead character that we have to root for. It’s like slipping on an old, battered cowboy boot, comfortable and familiar, maybe, but when something is this good, it doesn’t need to be updated.
See It If: you love classic westerns, this is a tale in the old mold. But it’s also a great thriller with twists and turns you won’t see coming, and a heartfelt drama too. A real crowd-pleaser.
Signature Entertainment presents The Ballad of Lefty Brown on Digital HD 30th April & DVD 7th May, 2018. Amazon pre-order: http://amzn.eu/acor4fj