Slow West: Slowly Going the Way of the Bounty Hunter
Slow West is the kind of film where salt literally falls into somebodies bullet wound. It has an off-kilter vibe that blends tragedy, beauty, dark humor and gorgeous New Zealand cinematography into one cohesively random movie. It is a comedic tragedy that may be one of the most memorable films of 2015. Whether it be the skeleton of a logger trapped underneath a tree or a massive fur coat worn by Ben Mendelsohn Slow West feels like the Coen brothers teamed up with Jim Jarmusch watched the Norwegian book adaptation Headhunters and were transported into a first time feature directors body. Did I mention the amazing fur coat that Mendelsohn wears?
Slow West revolves a nice kid named Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee..think a young Jay Baruchel) traversing throughout America’s west in search of his lost love Rose (Caron Pistorius). Somehow he has made it all the way from Scotland and things are looking bleak for him until he runs into a reformed bounty hunter named Silas (Michael Fassbender). Silas takes most of Jay’s money in exchange for protection and together they unwittingly lead a pack of bounty hunters towards Rose and her fathers cabin. There is a $2,000 bounty on Rose’s head and that attracts Ben Mendelsohn’s Indian hunting/absinthe drinking maniac Payne. From there we get a journey where absinthe is consumed, loggers are smooshed and Swedish people run amok. It all leads to a fantastic shoot out that features some of the best visual gags I’ve seen in years.
Director John Macclean made a wise decision to shoot Slow West in New Zealand. The locations are beautiful and all he needs to do is set his camera and let his A-list actors stroll through the shot. I was constantly amazed at Maclean’s patience. He trusted his actors and knew the countryside would speak for itself. It was refreshing to watch action scenes where the shots are longer than 1/8 of a second. You get the feeling that the action came secondary to the characters.
Slow West is never predictable and I applaud it for that. The gags aren’t highly stylized and there is a sick yet sane sense of humor. You’ll laugh when you shouldn’t laugh and sit on the edge of your seat as the action unfolds. Slow West is a love letter and calling card that proves that Westerns can be done right.
If you get a chance check out Slow West and read my post about films you might have missed in the theater. It features What We Do in the Shadows, Ex-Machina, It Follows and ”71.