Director: Ti West
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransone, Karen Gillan, John Travolta
Run Time: 99 mins
‘In A Valley Of Violence’ is another entry in the Western genre which has been going from strength to strength as of late. Last year, there were four excellent Westerns which all featured in my Best of 2016 list – ‘The Hateful Eight‘, ‘The Revenant‘, ‘Bone Tomahawk’ and ‘Hell Or High Water’. ‘The Magnificent Seven’ didn’t really do much for me and although in the UK, ‘In A Valley Of Violence’ has recived a direct-to-DVD release, it was released in America theatrically last year. This film is directed by Ti West who is both an actor and director who has previously directed horror films such as ‘The Inkeepers’ and ‘The Sacrament’ who suddenly revealed his love for Westerns when he came along with this script to Ethan Hawke, who he wrote in the screenplay with the actor in mind for the character. Fortunately, it has all worked out and Ti West has been able to assemble a very impressive cast comprising of Hawke, but also James Ransone, Karen Gillan, Taissa Farmiga but perhaps most impressively, John Travolta who I haven’t seen in a film in quite a long time. Reviews for this film have been positive from both critics and audiences alike but it will take a lot for this film to reach the heights of other films I have been utterly transfixed by recently.
‘In A Valley Of Violence’ may be a little simplistic in the plot department but it is a supremely entertaining romp that features some great performances and is suitably graphic at times. It is competently directed by Ti West who has written a memorable script and everyone who is in this film both in front of and behind the camera seems to be having a really great time. Although it doesn’t try and reinvent the genre, from the opening moments when I got on board with it, I had a big smile on my face the whole way through and it’s one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year so far.
The performances are of course, great. I will watch Ethan Hawke in anything and here he doesn’t disappoint. The standouts here though are James Ransone who has been steadily building his career over the past couple of years from being a bit of a bit-part player to now getting meatier roles who has collaborated with Hawke a few times. Secondly, John Travolta who really chews the scenery here but he makes for a menacing foil to Hawke who is quite well developed.
Although the film more than makes up for it in the entertainment factor, the story is rather on the simplistic side. The film plays out pretty much the way you expect it to although it does take a few moments to take a breather and explore some of its themes in a little more detail. Compared to the other Westerns I have cited as fantastic from last year, this film doesn’t have as much meat-on-the-bone as they do but in terms of sheer enjoyment, it’s up there.
The score by Jeff Grace, who I am a big fan of, does not disappoint and he manages to craft many memorable cues here. The cinematography by Eric Robbins is serviceable and the film has a very authentic feel from past Westerns.
Although ‘In A Valley Of Violence’ doesn’t tread particularly new ground, it is always extremely entertaining and at times, enthralling and it is on the strength of the performances and script that the film succeeds in the way it does. I genuinely think this film could have done well enough on a theatrical release. Hawke and Travolta are box-office draws enough for it to make more money. Maybe it’s for the best however as Ti West can continue to make smaller budget films with great scripts. But I do hope enough people will be able to access it and watch it as it’s far better than a lot of the stuff that’s playing in cinemas at the moment. I really liked it and had a big grin on my face throughout the entirety of the film. This is another Western to add to the growing list of good one’s in the recent resurgence of this genre.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (Excellent)