SLOW WEST | REVIEW

SLOW WEST is a slow burn Western that I was keen to see as soon as I heard about it. For me I will see anything with Kodi Smit-McPhee in it. Have watched him grow from the little tacker in ROMULUS, MY FATHER all the way to adult roles that are constantly brilliant with emotional range beyond most Hollywood adult actors. When you hear he is paired up with Fassbender and Mendelsohn you know you are probably in for a treat. I was given an online screener for this one and sadly it was on a night at the end of a HUGE week and house move for me, ten minutes in and I passed out on the couch, by the time I went to re-view it the link had expired #oops. I asked Kernel Andrew to review it at the Sydney Film Festival, where it screened two weeks ago. I do apologise for the delay in review but it is worth the wait! It only had a short run in the cinemas and you may have missed it, I would suggest checking with your local directories- it is an art house release so check your Palace and Dendy cinema locations, if you miss it at cinemas Transmission Films will release it in a couple of months on DVD & Blu Ray, hopefully we may have a giveaway for it. It is rated M and runs for 84mins. Enjoy Andrew’s review.

 

SLOW WEST MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
SLOW WEST | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE IMAGE | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

BY ANDREW BRUSENTSEV

SLOW WEST is a slowly paced Western which manages to give a nod to the classics of the form but also in the same moment mess with the genre with a deep sense of irony. This would normally give you a very disjointed artistic mess. You know those movies where it seems that the director knows what he wants in his head but just can’t deliver it onto the big screen. Well first time director Maclean does it with aplomb and gives us something that is familiar, yet at the same time memorable enough, to keep us engrossed in what is essentially a very slow burner.

A part of this movie is incredibly melancholy. On the one hand we have the sheer scale of the Rocky’s (actually for the most part incredible visual locations in New Zealand) and the loneliness of a young out of place sixteen year old traversing it to reunite with the girl he loves. On the other we have incredible sharp bursts of visual and verbal humour more suited to movies like PAINT YOUR WAGON or BLAZING SADDLES.

 

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SLOW WEST | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE IMAGE | JAY CAVENDISH (KODI SMIT-MCPHEE) AND SILAS (MICHAEL FASSBENDER) IN A STORE

 

Our 16-year-old protagonists is a Scottish native named Jay (played admirably by Kodi Smith MacPhee). A boy of privilege that followed a young village girl to this new strange land. He is making his way solo, a naïve thing to do, but we quickly gather it is for that most serious of afflictions, teenage love. Enter Silas (Michael Fassbender) who comes across this bamboozled and obviously in-over-his-head teenager. Smelling money he quickly offers bodyguard protection, Silas, we can see has, been here before. He is a wolf in a den of lambs, Silas is the real deal. Just as well as this well timed meeting a proposition comes just as Jay witnesses his first bit of violence. After it is over Jay tells Silas that he is a brute, but even he knows that he needs him. Jay doesn’t know it, but time is of the essence: A bounty has been put on the head of his love, Rose (Caren Pistorius) and her father (Rory McCann); it seems they both fled Scotland under grave circumstances.

 

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SLOW WEST | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE IMAGE | PAYNE (BEN MENDELSOHN)

 

Thus the two begin their strange little journey through a landscape filled with a mix of the humorous and the violent. Not wanting to spoil the narrative the movie continues from quirky scene to quirky character until the duo runs into a gang of bounty hunters. They are led brilliantly by Payne (Ben Mendelsohn who turns in another brilliant character study). It seems that Silas and he have a past, one we can tell filled with pain and violence. Payne’s ragtag oddball group of killers are also travelling to the same destination. Perhaps even to find the same person. From this meeting Maclean quickens the pace and we rush headlong into an incredible and very memorable hyper violent climax.

The cinematographer Robbie Ryan is as much a star here as the principles named above. What he presents for the hour plus on the screen had me and the rest of the audience transfixed. It is visually stunning and at the same time not overwhelming. The sound design and original soundtrack (by Lucy Bright and Jed Kurzel) also add to this visual juxtaposition, it shifts beautifully with the camera work and gives the visuals shape and depth. The original score works wonderfully right until the final scene where it abruptly stops and we are left with just the vision and the sound on screen. A masterful bit of tension builds.

 

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SLOW WEST | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE IMAGE | JAY CAVENDISH (KODI SMIT-MCPHEE)

 

What makes SLOW WEST so remarkable is that although the movie is harrowing in its assessment of the lives of some of our proponents it also mixes this with a carefree whimsy in its travelling scenes. There is optimism and romanticism for this place and as I see it from Maclean’s perspective for the Western in general. That Maclean finds his own way to express that is worthy of the price of the ticket. It has a playful sense of humour that would make the Coen brothers proud.

As a final plus the movie clocks in at just less than one hour and a half. In a time where many movies outstay their welcome, SLOW WEST manages to deliver all that it needs in this short, by today’s standard, timeframe. A worthy addition to the Western canon. I expect bigger and better things from Maclean.

A must see.

 

 

4 Pops