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Howard Spence (Sam Shepard) has seen better days. Once a big Western movie star, he now drowns his disgust for his selfish and failed life with alcohol, drugs and young women. If he were to die now, nobody would shed a tear over him, that's the sad truth. Until one day Howard learns that he might have a child somewhere out there. The very idea seems like a ray of hope that his life wasn't all in vain. So he sets out to find that young man or woman. He discovers an entire life that he has missed ... Written by
Sam Shepard's son, Jesse, stood in for his father on the fast riding sequences. Shepard did some of his own riding, but he was not permitted to do more than a trot. See more »
Howard's car is shot in the front left tire. A little later the right tire is flat. See more »
Where is Howard? Who is Howard? We wanna know, we wanna know. Where is Howard? Who is Howard? Where did he go, where did he go? He's down in the ditches. He's down in the ground. Disappeared himself. He's no-where to be found! Where is Howard? Who is Howard? He's long gone, he's long gone.
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I really wanted to like Don't Come Knocking. It's a contemporary Western by famed German director Wim Wenders, written by Pulitzer-Prize winner (and stud actor) Sam Sheppard, and including in the cast Sam's main squeeze (and my first crush) Jessica Lange. With these credentials, I would have bet that Don't Come Knocking would have been in my Top 5 at Sundance this year.
Not even close.
Here's my #1 criterion for judging a movie: Did I care about the characters? Love 'em or hate 'em, either one is OK, they just have to mean enough to me to care about what happens to them. And unfortunately, I didn't care two hoots about Howard Spence (Sheppard), the washed-up Western actor who tries to escape his past of hard living and general selfishness. I didn't even care about Doreen (Lange), a former girlfriend from a movie shot in Butte, Montana. And I certainly didn't care about Earl (Gabriel Mann), Doreen's son, no matter how over-the-top obnoxious his behavior. Maybe I did care for Sky, the Butte native played by the remarkable Sarah Polley, who was clearly the most likable and the only truly compelling character in the movie. And Tim Roth's portrayal of the studio bond man was interesting at least.
But beyond character development, this movie just didn't have any direction, suffering from the thinnest of story lines and a pace that often needed a quick kick from Howard Spence's spurs. It does feature some interesting locations and beautiful southern Utah landscapes. But that's not why we go to movies.
Wenders and Sheppard go back to their collaboration on Paris, Texas in 1984, and they spoke very fondly of each other during the Q&A. They collaborated on the story over a period of years and have looked for a chance to work together again. I wish they would have produced something better.
Interesting Tidbit from the Q&A: Sheppard's son Jesse is an expert horseman and did his father's riding stunts for the movie. Sam Sheppard also rides well, but his contract limited his riding to a trot.
Second Interesting Tidbit: Wenders has wanted to shoot a film in Butte for twenty years, since his first visit there, and was concerned that someone else would film there before him.
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