REVIEW: In A Valley Of Violence (2016) – ManlyMovie

REVIEW: In A Valley Of Violence (2016)


Running Time: 104 Mins
Rated: R
What To Expect: Awkward comedy that doesn’t quite work, traditional vengeance arc

I must not have been keeping up with this movie too well because I didn’t realise it was set to be a screwball black comedy, less than a traditional, time-tested saddle revenge-’em up.  Maybe the embargoes attached to the movie should’ve suggested that something about this movie wasn’t going to be quite right, it’s a movie that isn’t quite sure what it wants to be and will probably have certain people really dislike it for that.  There will be a spoiler in this review.  This movie was directed and written by Ti West.

We see war veteran and drifter Paul (Ethan Hawke) try to run from his past, along with all that he has left, namely his dog Abbie (played by Jumpy the dog).  The dog is amazing, able to make its own bed, lead a horse up a hill and do all types of tricks that can’t be performed by a typical animal or recreated by CGI.  Paul enters a podunk town ran by Marshal Clyde Martin (John Travolta) and his loudmouth son Deputy Gilly Martin (James Ransone).  Deputy Gilly is an asshole, who wishes to test the mettle of the quiet Paul in front of onlookers, after Paul resists, the Deputy goes for his dog.  Big mistake, he sets in wheels the motions of mass murder, with Marshal Martin being sympathetic to the loner, but unwilling to let him engage in wholesale gun-totin’.

It may sound like John Wick in the old west, but it really isn’t.  It’s kind of an awkward film that aspires to be a Tarantino or Coens movie, but can’t find its comedic mojo.  That leaves many scenes stuck in limbo between hard thriller and farce, I would really have preferred it ditched the comedy and went totally black.  While Ransone is somewhat effective as a cowardly son of a bitch villain, Hawke is to me completely unconvincing as a ticking time bomb one man army.  He’s too meek and disarming as a man to really get behind as a killer.

The upside is that revenge as a theme is hard to screw up and the film fairly lives up to its title, I mean, we’ve probably hit the apex of slit throat effects on screen.  I was wondering for a while what the rating was for this movie until I witnessed the first murder on screen.  John Travolta is also a cool grey area baddie, he really digs his lines and the stuff penned by Ti West, even if it’s mediocre and doesn’t quite gel.  But really, I think it’s more miss than hit.  Some might get one viewing out of this, nothing more…