A fair trade: We promise to say that the Western is “back” (thanks to those cocksuckers over at Deadwood) if you, David Von Ancken, promise to never make one again—or at least watch a few beforehand. Sure, the Civil War--era frontier was cold, wet and dusty. Must it feel so much like a tomb?
Snoozy Seraphim Falls has all the good looks of its wintry Oregon locales, not to mention the equally craggy faces of Liam Neeson and a grizzled-up Pierce Brosnan, embroiled in a Fugitive-like pursuit with the latter on the run. No doubt it was considered bold to hide Neeson’s motivations until late in the game. But that means you have an awful lot of tracking and hunting to slog through; unless you really miss being a Boy Scout, you might opt out of this sleepaway camp. (If you’ve seen one actor do a little wincing self-surgery, you’ve seen ’em all.)
Speaking of camp, for all its manliness, the film works slightly better as a bitter romance gone postal. Leone would have pushed the passions into widescreen overdrive with a style to match. Simple revenge stories are the cornerstone of the genre. Simple directors are the reason why Westerns today seem so decrepit. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf