“IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE” is a new western starring; Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Taissa Farmiga and is directed by Ti West. This story follows the usual spaghetti-western structure. You have a lone drifter; he passes through a small town run under the ruthless control of a marshal and his deputies. When this drifter is confronted with violence, all hell breaks loose as the plot turns to revenge and redemption of the town.
This film came out Friday, it is available on many streaming services and as a longtime fan of Ethan Hawke I was interested in seeing what this movie could deliver. I am not usually a fan of westerns, but as a fan of performers I wanted to see what Hawke could do with this role.
This film was a fun throwback to the genre, from the bold opening credits and the music choices, to the washed-out color palette, this movie looked and felt like it was shot several years ago which helped build the setting and tone of the script. There were some excellent locations, the small town built out on the plains looked and felt the part. With deep, wide shots, and slow pans, director Ty West captured them effectively to pull you into the desolate backdrop of the story.
Ethan Hawke was great in the lead, he felt the part of a drifter and his relationship with his dog helped make him a likable character, despite him probably not being the nicest of guys. The dynamic with his character and his dog was built quickly and provided some enjoyable back-and-forth’s very early on despite it being a clear plot device for later in the story.
John Travolta was surprisingly good in the movie as well. His time was not as lengthy as Hawke’s but his character was a solid addition to the story. He and Hawke had some entertaining moments as their characters are pulled together by the plot. Travolta was solid as the comic relief, he generated some laughs out of his dialogue but is was certainly his delivery that made the most out of it.
Through the first half of the movie I was all in on it, then things took an odd turn, one that creates my major issue with the movie overall. Roughly two-thirds into it, the script makes a significant tonal shift from one of being serious, to more of a lighthearted comical feel, and it honestly pulled me out of the story a bit. There were scenes of dialogue that came out of nowhere and felt very out of place given where the story was at. For me it killed the impact of the third-act and took a great deal of intensity out of the situations that had started out as being very tense.
It did not completely hinder the film, it was still entertaining, I just enjoyed the serious angle the story was taking as opposed to the Tarantino-esque hilarity the dialogue shoots for at odd times later in the movie. Once this vibe was created the balance from serious scenes to those trying to rouse some laughter came off very awkward.
Overall this was a fun movie, it was almost a tale of two films in tone but the western theme was front and center throughout. With Ti West’s old-school style of filming you truly do feel like you are watching a movie from the past. Hawke and Travolta shine and the rest of the cast brought solid effort so there is some entertainment to be found in this one.
If you like westerns or are a fan of Ethan Hawke or John Travolta this film is worth the time. For a smaller budget project, there is some strong quality to it, and with great settings as well as performances this film will take you on an adventure in the old west, just and odd one at times.
Time: 104 min
MPAA Rating: R (For violence and language)