REVIEW: BALLAD OF A GUNFIGHTER

CAST

Robert Carradine (Django Unchained)
Martin Sheen (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Clu Gulager (The Virginian)
Richard Epcar  (Batman Unlimited)
Kerrigan Mahan (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)

whenevil31_351Christopher Coppola has made a wise choice – he has not made a nostalgic “Western”; instead, he has approached the Cassidy story as a slice of what we used to call ‘Americana’; or what older critics once called ‘homespun’. As the film unraveled, I found myself more and more reminded of the great “Hallmark Theater” version of Mark Twain’s “Roughing It”, with James Garner narrating. Both these films remind us that, although films about the ‘old west’ are probably always to be mythic for Americans, they need not be ‘westerns’; they can very well be just films about what it meant to be American in that time, in that place. I never feel pandered to, watching this film; there’s no effort to shove the Boyd-Cassidy legacy down our throats, no irony, no camp. Consequently, I get a sense of these characters as having walked – or ridden horseback – across some real western America I too could have walked a hundred years ago.

Given that, the plainness of the film – it positively avoids anything we have come to call “style” – is all to its favor; and the plain acting of the performers fits neatly in with this; gosh, it really does feel like some story told around a campfire on a cattle drive – no visual dressing, just the quirks and good humor – and sudden violence – that we expect from the good narration of an adventure yarn. I was very pleasantly surprised by this film, and if the viewer sets aside encultured expectations, he or she will find considerable pleasure in it. I would have given this film 9-stars, but I’ll give it a ten just because most reviewers here have missed the point completely; and I urge them to set their memories of Boyd aside and give this film another chance.

 

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