|Very pretty violence.|
The biggest problem with this film is that nothing seem to happen for any reason. The plot moves along at a predictably slow, but casually upbeat pace, but nothing seems to drive it. It starts, it happens, and it ends, and never seems to have an actual point to it. There's no reason for it's existence except for it to exist. The characters are there, and we know what they want, but we never get to see what drives them. They have a element of mystery to them that never really gets solved. They just what they're supposed to, and then that's it. They're good, but they're pointless.
While none of the performances are lacking, the only ones really worth mentioning are Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Fassbender is the more seasoned actor of the two, so there's more expectation there. He's good and entertaining, but doesn't exactly jump off the screen; there's just not enough meat to his character for him to be particularly memorable here. Motivations are shallow, and the development arc is short and flat. Smit-McPhee impresses more because we haven't come to expect performances to match the likes of Fassbender out of him -- yet. Jay was slightly more compelling because the simpler motivations worked with the naivete of the character, and Smit-McPhee backed it up well with a convincing and charming performance.
|Keeping up appearances.|
The highlight of the film stays at the surface. It was shot in New Zealand, so it goes without saying that there was some plenty of picturesque scenery. But New Zealand was a good choice for more than it's breathtaking mountain ranges and rolling fields. It lent the film a note of surrealism. It looked like what the old American North-West could have looked like, but in an extreme, overly-exaggerated way. And then the shots were saturated with color just to the point where it starts to seem unnatural. And then presented as a western it evoked a sense of unfamiliarity that was subtly unsettling, while at the same time, extremely beautiful to look at. It was neat effect that complemented the film well -- or would have if it didn't overshadow it a bit too much.
The music was also interesting -- perky and plucky, and western sounding but not classically so. It worked by keeping the film's pacing from feeling too draggy, but at the same time it had a hand in producing a false impression of the tone of the film. There was some serious bits and some comic relief, but for the most part the movie just floated around ambiguously and never landed on any tone at all. If that was the desired effect, I applaud the effort, but it left me feeling oddly disconnected and unable to invest much of anything in the film.
|Just wandering around through some smoke...|
The movie is framed fittingly -- even without the New Zealand landscape as a backdrop this film would have looked good. And the action scenes were sharp and just the right level of violent. Particularly in the climax scene, which went on for a good amount of time without losing steam. Slow West is able to live up to its title in a pleasant, not boring way, moving along to its own odd but stylish and rhythm. And its attractive, colorful, and sparsely decorated exterior is almost able to distract from an equally sparse and aimless interior.