Saturday, November 13, 2010

Girl on...Movie? Action: The Last Rites of Ransom Pride

The Last Rites of Ransom Pride (2009)
Director: Tiller Russel
Writers: Tiller Russel, Ray Wylie Hubbard

Aside:  I know what you're thinking, why is Doomwench reviewing another movie?  Well, it's because I want to, of course, and not at all because things are still rather insanely busy around here.  Don't worry, I'm not planning to make a habit of this movie thing.  I much prefer my books.  Alas, alack and well-a-day sometimes things don't work out the way we would like them to and then we have to tell you about a film instead of a lovely example of the printed word.  That's just life, my pets.


Well, my dears, it is a little known fact that I am passing fond of Westerns.  I find it rather likely that this attachment stems from having watched Clint Eastwood’s fantastic A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in my formative years – thanks, mom.  I had a near-life-size poster of Clint, in his Western garb, taped to the back of my bedroom door.  If you chanced to look in on me at this tender age, you might have found me putting the movie score on my parents’ record player, turning the volume up and prancing across the couches and their overturned cushions as if they were mountains, pretending that I was about to save our hero from a nasty fate.  How I ended up a vampire-loving goth girl I’ll never know.  Let’s end this traipse down memory lane, shall we, and talk about the current state of the Western, which is saddening.  In the last 10 years, I can name only two good showings in the genre: 3:10 to Yuma and HBO’s Deadwood.  I suppose there have been a couple of attempts to do a good Jesse James movie – but I haven’t seen them.  And then there was Appaloosa which couldn’t keep my interest for very long.  Now, you being astute readers can probably see where this is going – when I was flipping through Netflix late last night looking for something to entertain me, I came across a Western made in 2009 that I had never even heard of before.  I had no choice but to watch it.  And I was intrigued enough by what I saw to write about it here.

My Review:

Was this a good Western, a la Tombstone or any of the others I mentioned above?  No, not so much.  Was it quirky and strange and somehow endearing?  Yes, though with some problems.

Now, I’m not going to talk about historical accuracy or the superficial plot – I wasn’t expecting a realistic representation of the times, I’m watching a Western after all.  I also wasn't after a profound plot.  I wanted to be entertained and I was.  Good enough for me.  My only substantial problem with this flick was that the director chose to use these quick flashback / flash-forward shots and combined with the superfluous and overdone transitional shots of bleached out animal skulls and random landscapes it got to be a bit disruptive.

Overall, I really loved the visuals and the imagery in this movie.  I liked the sort of bleached out look of everything (except when we were looking at our 100th animal skull) and the splashes of colour here and there.  I also appreciated that this movie is set in the early 1900s so you have this strange tug and pull between machinery (early cars and a motorcycle) and your outlaws still on horseback.  When I think “Western” I tend to think in terms of the 1800s and I haven’t really spent a lot of time considering what the West was like after the turn of the century.  In my mind, it just stops being the Wild West without any sort of transitional period.  Continuing with my impressions of the look of the thing – I liked the costumes, especially what our heroine, Juliette Flowers (actress Lizzy Caplan whom you might recognize from True Blood, or a variety of other titles, but True Blood is what I knew her from) wears throughout.  Totally not historically accurate, but sexy and neat!  I also really like the sound of her voice (she’d be welcome to read me to sleep each night) and I wish the roles she had involved more speaking.  Throughout, there is a sense of the grotesque mixed with burlesque running through the imagery – we encounter dying Siamese twins and a dwarf travelling as some sort of theatre troupe / sideshow; and there are a couple of deliberately strange brothel scenes, and of course, the Bruja (Cote de Pablo, she’s in NCIS! Took me a while to figure that one out) in her elaborate dresses made from bits of animal pelts and I assume bones.  Yeah, I found the whole thing, barring the jarring flashes, to be visually intriguing.
When it comes to acting, aside from the not-necessarily-good but memorable Dwight Yoakam in the role of reformed outlaw turned man-of-God Reverend Early Pride, the women outshone the men.  Of course, this might be a product of the script (or my personal bias toward strong women), but at any rate, the boys definitely didn’t put forth anything worth remembering.  Jon Foster could have been any generically attractive actor and his character was a spineless follower, also, his name was Champ…really…it was Champ.  Scott Speedman (whom you might remember, or rather not remember was the utterly dull Michael in Underworld) as the dead Ransom Pride was good only in the sense that I didn’t recognize him, though I suppose he didn’t really need to give a great performance, as we only saw him through flashbacks.  I did buy that he’d get himself shot, so there’s that.

Let me wrap this up.  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, even though the excessive flashbacks / flash-fowards started to make me worry about having seizures. And the overuse of the transitional skull shots were dull and disrupted the story.  Sometimes I just like to watch a chick be a badass, even if it’s totally unrealistic given the historical context and The Last Rites of Ransom Pride delivered on that count with its two kick-ass chicks battling out over the dead man’s body and a supporting cast of ineffectual men.  I think if I had to sum my opinion up in one word I’d say it was endearing, because I liked its quirkiness, its feeling of anachronism and I’m a sucker for a Western, even if it’s an unconventional one.  If you are of a similar mind, you should check this out – it’s readily available on Netflix streaming. 

And as a concluding side note: it’s a Canadian movie, shot in Alberta.  So there is that.  Go Canada!  I have a feeling this flick is better than that gunslinger without guns movie they've recently been trying to shove down our Western-starved gullets.

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