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Jones is clearly not gunning for major awards here, and striking deep emotions is apparently not a requirement for her part. She needs to look sassy and resolute in her cute costume, and she sufficiently delivers within that realm.
Ed Harris is fantastic as a lunatic sheriff. The performances by the rest of the supporting cast are also sound, especially by Jason Isaacs.
Country music heartthrob Jason Aldean is naturally menacing as the bad guy's right hand man. He has a reasonable shot at a moonlighting career in movies of this genre outside his day job as a singer.
"Sweetwater" will surely rub old school Western fans the wrong way, but if you are open-minded about crossing formats, you just might find this popcorn Western a perfect pastime.
The movie itself which was playing at the Fantasy Filmfest in Germany when I watched it, is predictable because of the known story line (even without me saying where this is going, you'll see it coming from a thousand miles). But the fun you can have with it, is still there, especially if you have a soft spot for Western movies in general
A checklist for a proper revenge movie. And the last part of the movie, when you're thinking "no, don't turn your back", she finalizes the movie with a "that's what I would do!" moment.
Could watch it again now.
I too was at Sundance, but have a different take on the audience than that of mikefine-1, they enjoyed it. The audience in general was filled with motivated movie goers, and they cheered and agreed with the extermination of the mindless followers of evil, the pervert, the corrupt lawman, and the greedy banker.
Not going to win an academy award, worth the time to watch.
A highly entertaining film, with few good guys but a satisfying morality tale. Ed Harris is a treat as an anachronic elder flower child of the 1970's. I wished to see Sara and Sheriff Jackson ride into the sunset, and meet again in a later film.
Overall a highly recommended movie.
Intelligently simple entertainment--nothing to be taken too seriously. Great performances by Ed Harris (sheriff) and January Jones (former prostitute).
Later a similar fate befalls a Mexican-born farmer, Miguel Ramírez (Eduardo Noriega) whom Josiah, a thoroughgoing racist, also does not like, and therefore kills. Miguel's reformed prostitute wife Sarah (January Jones) comes looking for her husband, and eventually will realize Josiah's guilt but will kill not only eventually him, but a venial voyeur shopkeeper and various minions of Josiah. All this has been complicated early on by the arrival of the provocative, canny, also rather mad Sheriff Jackson (Ed Harris with long white locks and a long pale blue coat with plaid clown paints). In the end, there is a series of killings by Sarah mostly, with a traditional shootout, but not much suspense. Might it be that New Zealander Andrew McKenzie, whose story is the starting point, was under the sway of Cormac McCarthy's novels? The adapted screenplay is by the Marin County, California twins, Logan and Noah Miller, who worked with Ed Harris before on their debut film Touching Home, but Logan is listed as the sole director this time around.
Ed Harris has fun with his role, enjoying Prophet Josiah's good food and then stabbing his nice mahogany dining room table with his own big murderous knife to illustrate his suspicion that Josiah has killed the two young men; and every so often doing a sprightly dance that is quite nutty and belies the age suggested by his grizzled beard and silvery locks. January Jones, Don Draper's prim, then adulterous, wife in the Sixties advertising TV series Mad Men, brings a certain cool dignity to her role, but she seems too pure to have been a whore, and her wrath hath not enough fury in it.
In France where this was presented under the title Shériff Jackson, the theatrical release was "Forbidden to under 12 years." Figaroscope, whose critic liked it a lot (it got an overall Allociné press rating of 3.0), said it "refers as much to Tarantino as to Peckinpah." Actually despite some mildly ornate dialogue this lacks any of the verbal excitement or wit of Tarantino, the terror and suspense of Peckinpah, or the apocalyptic grandeur of Cormac McCarthy. Furthermore the individual scenes don't seem to link together very well and hence not much narrative drive develops. The abrupt ending makes little sense, and leaves one unsatisfied. Some moments are exploitative or vulgar. Prophet Josiah uses women sexually right and left; some scenes suggest the filmmakers are thinking of There Will Be Blood. In fact there are many influences, none integrated fully.
Sweetwater, 95 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 2013 and in the summer was released on DVD in the UK and Japan. Theatrical release in the US and France 9 Oct. and the US 11 Oct. It has done less well with US than French critics: Metacritic rating: 38. Todd McCarthy's assessment (no relation to Cormac) for Hollywood Reporter: "The Old West is portrayed as a venal loony bin in Sweetwater, a handsomely designed, occasionally funny but ultimately empty female vengeance yarn." Bill Graham's lead on twitch also rings true: "Sweetwater isn't easy to enjoy. For such a spare and tight film, there seems to be a lot of dead air. " He attributes that to a failure to integrate separate narrative lines. Screened for this review at UGC Odéon, Paris.
Fortunately, a new sheriff has just rode in, and doesn't fall for the alleged man of the cloth's film-flammery. You see, the preacher's men have unwittingly killed two friends of his, and he wants to find out the cause of their disappearance. Meanwhile, the insane religious nutjob has got designs on a redhead farmer AND her land... and is prepared to go to any methods to grab what he believes should be rightfully his. Including of course, disposing of her Mexican husband. Unfortunately, after destroying her life, he awakens in her a monster. Let's just say Charles Bronson is about to have some competition for the highest body count...
And as the predictable slaughter gets underway, you can hardly help but get involved as this irredeemable bible basher, along with his uncouth gang of reprobates, are annihilated by our wronged lady in ways which can only be described as thoroughly deserved. There has been so many contemptible things done by these miscreants up till now, that maximum satisfaction is guaranteed as they're blown to smithereens. January Jones is a marvel as the feisty focal point of the movie, and Ed Harris with Jason Isaacs offer invaluable support as the unshakeable lawman and the eminently hissable bad guy, respectably.
Number one with a bullet. 6/10
I wait for the next director's film.
This one is so gooooood !!!!!
While I am warning the reader of spoilers, this film is completely predictable in every shape and form. Set in what seems to be New Mexico in the Old West, we meet the Prophet Josiah, a religious zealot who kills, rapes and abuses in the name of the Lord. He opens the film by murdering two men on his property for the theft of two lambs and trespass. We know immediately that he is a bad and vengeful man.
Over on the property next door resides young Sarah and Miguel who are deeply in love and are just trying to make ends meet by working their dirt farm. They are at odds with the dishonest banker who steals their money; the lewd store owner has a peep hole in the dressing room and the religious followers of the "Prophet."
Finally, this dull and predictable story gets a little life when a legendary yet eccentric lawman played by Ed Harris, returns to investigate the whereabouts of the two men murdered earlier in the film. He dances to music, he is bold in his assertions and takes a refreshing and strange approach to his law duties and naturally, annoys our villain to no end.
Things turn bad when Josiah decides he wants both Sarah and their property. Of course, he just murders Miguel and buries the man and goes and rapes Sarah as to indoctrinate her into his "flock." From here, the film degrades into a vengeance tale in which Sarah gets her revenge in dramatic fashion.
No person in the film is spared from her anger. Of course, there is a shootout where she receives a minor obligatory wound in her side. She rescues the lawman who fell into Josiah's clutches but he is ultimately killed allowing our "heroine" to go unpunished for her wrath. ALL who did her wrong are murdered in cold blood. In the end, we see her burning her clothes and standing naked by a fire.
This movies suffers from so many problems, it really is difficult to know where to begin. So here are some of the multitude of issues:
- January Jones' performance is what she does best. Her lifeless, unemotional style may appeal to some. However, for me, it is ridiculous. Her husband is murdered, she miscarries a child and still, the women doesn't cry or evoke a single emotion.
- The murderous rampage of Sarah is brutal. She kills innocent people. One guy pleads for his life explaining that he had nothing to do with her husband's death but she guns him down just the same. More important, she does it without remorse.
What disturbs me most is that many people in the Sundance showing cheered her on as she brutally murders close to a dozen people. Sure, a few might have been deserving of her wrath but a few of these murders are simply wrong.
- The film is a cartoon complete with villains in black, good guys in white and equally ludicrous characterizations. The directors try to bring a little bit of ambiguity to the nature of Sarah by giving the wonderful Amy Madigan (playing her mother) a few minutes of screen time. However, it is just confusing and unexplained.
- The psychotic Josiah is played to excess by the talented and charismatic Jason Isaacs. He is given full reign to make this character as evil as he wants and there is no restraint. However, here is one place a little bit of control might have given us a more interesting character. In the end, Darth Vader has more depth.
Isaacs plays "Lucius Malfoy" in the Harry Potter series and in those films we see a mostly evil man but we also get a taste of the love for his children and his torn allegiance to Voldemort. He has excellent depth and my point is, Isaacs knows how to a villain and yet be human. Clearly the directors and not Isaacs are at folly for this ridiculous portrayal.
- There are so many continuity issues and incomplete thoughts in the film that it seems hurried and pieced together. We don't really understand our villain at all. He is just bad to be bad. We aren't told why Sarah ran away. The time line and pacing are a mess(pregnant a couple days after intercourse is certainly possible but in the old west, would she know that fast???).
- We have no understanding of why people would hang out with Josiah who is abusive, psychotic and violent to those who appose him. Certainly, we could make assumptions. However, it might have been better for us to see some of the good of this man. What inspires the people of this town to want to be with this "Prophet?"
I could go on and on. The point is, I understand "Sundance" has to include some Hollywood films to help them draw an audience. However, this is the first time in 20 years (even before it was officially Sundance) that I walked out genuinely disappointed in the festival, the audience and the movie.
Inspite of its low budget, "Sweetwater" is a handsome looking western with substantial production values. The characters are memorable and vivid, particularly Harris' looney sheriff and Isaacs' crazy prophet. "Avengers" lenser Brad Shield has photographed this entertaining but offbeat distaff western so you can feel the dust, sweat, and violence. Logan doesn't let any grass grow under his feet. Clocking in at 95 minutes, "Sweetwater" qualifies as an above-average sagebrusher. If you love to watch women toting guns and shooting at men, "Sweetwater" is ideal fare for you.
this is a very weird movie, an out-of-the-box very unconventional western, at times funny and ruthless, sometimes clueless and ridiculous. but what made this film above the cheap low budget western genre B movies was 1) most of the actors did great jobs and performed so well that didn't give you a cheap feeling of the average tasteless low budget and disgusting modern day western B movies; 2) the great cinematography of the camera, the wide angle wildness of the landscape, the beautiful light setting control. just by watching the glamorous camera works would worth the money and earned at least 8 stars; 3) although the screenplay was a bit over the top ridiculous, but still quite watchable, good enough to anchor your fat buttocks firmly on the seat to the end. again, a weird mindless clueless absurdity sometimes is not a bad idea.
"True Grit" had a similar feel, and also lots of tension, (as well as a bunch of dead bodies) but that was a much more nuanced and interesting story.
I would avoid this movie.
I liked this film, but it's really quite shallow. If you can enjoy a minimalist, high-concept revenge thriller, this is actually pretty enjoyable. Just don't look for anything more than violent action scenes, despicable villains, and violent anti-heroes who would make Clint Eastwood proud.
As I expected, Ed Harris is the highlight of this film. His crazy sheriff is unpredictable, darkly humorous, and fun. The little bits of back story that we were fed make him intriguing, but it's a bit unfortunate that they never capitalized on any of it. I thought that maybe there'd be plot twists and complicated alliances, like a Sergio Leone film, but I guess this isn't that kind of film. No, it's basically a beat-em-up video game where the hero kills all the villain's henchmen and then does a boss fight.
There are quite a few postmodern touches to the film that may annoy old-school Western fans. For one thing, this a modern revenge thriller that's been transposed into a Western setting. As such, I don't think this was really meant to appeal to fans of classic Westerns. Instead, it's going for the Quentin Tarantino crowd, though it could have used more style and quotable dialog. For a poor man's QT film, this is not bad, but I'd recommend the real thing instead.
(Spoilers are VERY minor, but noted here for your reference.)
Sweetwater just misses the mark, which was part of my frustration with the movie. There are several good scenes, and at times I really enjoyed the movie. The problem is the rest of the time I was either bored or really frustrated with how poorly the script was written and how poor the acting was.
The main problem with the movie is the villain. A psychotic, cult leader type who has a flock of followers who seem to ignore the fact that he's a psychotic killer (or are, inexplicably, just fine with their religious leader being a nutjob who kills people as a result of temper tantrums). Jason Isaacs takes the role as written and runs with it. He clearly takes devilish delight in playing an evil religious leader, but he plays him in such and over the top manner that it's hard to take the actor or the character seriously (or the script, for that matter). When your villain is one dimensional and evil just for evil's sake it really puts a strain on the writer to make the story work. In this case, Logan and Noah Miller fail to do anything with the character of Josiah other than show him to be sadistically mean, nasty, and psychotic. This really hurts the movie, but it was so unnecessary. Giving the character of Josiah some redeeming qualities and a genuine feeling of righteousness (instead a feeling of, "God, and everyone else, owes me everything") would have gone a long way towards making the movie much more interesting in between the action scenes.
Another thing that really hurts the movie is the crass use of language. Profanity in movies is hardly anything new, and often fits the movie and can make it more realistic. But here it is just over the top, crass and vulgar, and mostly anachronistic. It doesn't fit. And there are a few crass scenes as well that could have been executed better with a little more restraint.
The character of Sheriff Jackson, played by Ed Harris, is interesting, but never fully developed. There's something there, but Miller and Miller seem to be more interested in making him a quirky, oddball smartmouth than making him a great character. Harris gives a decent performance (is he ever bad?), but the character never quite becomes three dimensional.
On the other hand...
Sarah is a fantastic character. Wronged in multiple ways, she finally snaps and becomes a true force of nature. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, except for a woman horribly wronged in several different ways. Her quest for both revenge and a little justice (just a little) is fun. This is the part of the movie that works, and works well. It's just a shame that it takes so long to get there. Her willingness to do what it takes to get revenge (including wading topless in a river to attract her targets) just makes her more appealing - it's hard not to root for a character when they fully commit to doing what has to be done! She is merciless and unfeeling - no sympathy, no empathy, just a woman on a mission that has to be completed.
Had the first 2/3 of the movie been as good as the last 1/3 Sweetwater would be a very good Western. As it is, however, it's a missed opportunity to create something that transcends it's era. Oh, well.