By: Oberst von Berauscht –
Paul (Ethan Hawke) is a drifter, heading south for Mexico through the wilderness. He is accompanied by his horse and a dog named Abbie, who is incredibly smart. Paul comes to a town in a valley called Denton, where he hopes to get provisions and a bath before he continues his journey. Instead he runs afoul of Gilly (James Ransone) an upstart sheriff’s deputy who picks a fight with him. Paul manages to publicly embarrass Gilly via sucker-punch. Meanwhile the Sheriff (John Travolta), who is also Gilly’s father, runs Paul out of town, promising to let him go in peace. Gilly breaks his father’s word, though, tracking Paul deep into the desert and ambushing him and Abbie, leaving them for dead. Livid, Paul returns to Denton in secret looking for bloody revenge.
Director Ti West makes the most of the film’s tiny budget, crafting an old-school-styled Western that overcomes genre convention through a few very unique character twists. John Travolta, for instance, isn’t the big-baddie that he’d be in most Westerns, just a father whose misfortune was to have a kid that is an asshole.
Nobody in this movie possesses superhuman traits, none are particularly great shots, none are quickdraw masters, instead the characters are mostly in way over their heads. And the lucky ones die before they realize this fact.
As the lead, Ethan Hawke is excellent, carrying a “dark & vaguely defined backstory” typical of Westerns. He has channeled what remains of his love and affection into his canine companion and the two are a great team. This makes for some wonderful moments of comedy that clash mercilessly with the film’s darker revenge tone. Karen Gillan is also excellent as Ellen, the airheaded girlfriend of Gilly who runs the town’s hotel alongside her sister Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga). In the town of Denton, where her boyfriend has the run of the place, Ellen is the spoiled princess. As the put-upon sister of Ellen, Taissa Farmiga is anxious for a life outside of Denton, and is immediately taken with Hawke, less for romantic reasons, and more as a piece of pure fascination. As the Preacher, Burn Gorman is the film’s chief comedic foil, as he frequently runs into trouble, mostly due to his own bad luck.
Budgetary limitations are evident throughout the film, which has a spartan feel. Very few extras, and limited production design make the town of Denton feel less than lived-in. It almost has the feel of being shot at a gimmicky Wild West tourist attraction.
In a Valley of Violence is a solidly entertaining Western from Blumhouse, proving the fledgling production company has more to it than horror
In a Valley of Violence (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever the dog does a trick
Take a Drink: for the Body-Count
Take a Drink: for Ethan Hawke badassery
Do a Shot: whenever the preacher gets his ass handed to him