The opening credits sequence is a nod to the Man With No Name trilogy starring Clint Eastwood. See more »
Travolta's character sees that Paul has a McClellan saddle and trapdoor Springfield rifle. He questions whether Paul deserted the army when fighting Indians in Kansas or Oklahoma since the Civil War was over. Oklahoma was called Indian Territory until 1890 and wouldn't have been referred to as Oklahoma until after the Indian wars were over. See more »
I read some reviews here criticizing this movie as too much of a satire, so I went in with a cautious mind. I surely didn't want a straight-up comedy or a movie that has too much commentary about its genre. I'm happy to say that "In a Valley of Violence" is played very straight, it's a traditional loner western with a revenge plot.
There is nothing quite new here, and you'll see plenty of clichés played out. Which suggests that Ti West wanted to pay homage to traditional, small-scaled westerns. So if you want something profound or fresh to challenge your intellect, you'd want to look elsewhere.
But there is something to this film. Most of the characters, despite not having much depth, are fun to follow. They have that certain spark to them, most of them are over the top and very on-the-nose. It doesn't reach Tarantino-levels in the way these characters are portrayed, but the fact that this comparison even came to my mind is telling. You don't get that invested in the characters, but you start to enjoy them nonetheless - which is good, because the movie is carried by this weird little group of people. The scale is small, and there are only a few people on the screen, so it's that much more important. Ti West's other movie "The Innkeepers" had the same element to it, and he just might be a pretty good director concerning characters, making them even remotely interesting when the premise or material doesn't help.
Actors are fine. My favorite was Taissa Farmiga, who was a sweet blabbermouth. Even John Travolta did fine, and Tommy Nohilly was good too. James Ransone was absolutely hamming it up at times, which was a nice contrast to Ethan Hawke who played it straight. Ethan Hawke doesn't have much of a range here, and he's not supposed to either, but he always delivers just by his mere presence. He's one of those actors I just enjoy watching, no matter the movie, and this one is no exception. Karen Gillan was certainly having fun with her role, as most people did. Perhaps that's it, the charm this movie had: people were having fun and some of it translated to the screen. Otherwise the movie would have been very dry. Oh yeah, and the dog helped too.
There's something to be said about cinematography in Ti West's films (although I've only seen three). There is something intimate and warm to it. Nothing feels pretentious or grand, but at the same time not too familiar either. They're easy on the eye in a lovely way. I hope Ti West makes more films, I'm starting to get interested.
"In a Valley of Violence" isn't deep. It's probably a love letter to simple westerns, and isn't trying to do anything what it can't achieve. For this movie that particular approach works well. It's a simple story about simple characters with some weird charm to it. It's not very engaging, but I found it very enjoyable nonetheless. There is nothing cynical about this movie, even though we've seen this story a thousand times, and it warmed my heart. If you like simple, confined movies and you're willing to adjust your expectations, this might be worth the shot for you too.
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