In the late 19th and early 20th century, America still consisted of vast stretches of wilderness, waiting to be settled by crusading European settlers or battled upon by warring native tribes. Families protected each other in these areas of practical lawlessness in order to ensure their family name’s survival in the New World while looking still for new opportunities to better their lives. In Slow West, America was also the place to go in order to escape from answering to criminal charges, as was the case of Scotsman John Ross. Ross, played by Rory McCann (Game of Thrones) and considered a peasant in his homeland, murders a wealthy aristocrat after his daughter, Rose, is assaulted for spending time with the aristocrat’s son. In order to escape charges, John and Rose escape to Colorado and begin a new life away, where no one will know who they are.
That is until Rose’s love interest, sixteen-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) decides to chase after her.
As Jay makes his way through the unforgiving wilderness of new America, he runs into Silas, a former bounty hunter. Tired and weary, Silas convinces Jay to hire him for protection and Silas eventually discovers Jay’s connection to the wanted Ross family. Unfortunately, the consequences of these connections predict tragedies to come.
While there are minor plot points and visuals in certain places that leave me scratching my head, as well as some unbalanced character development, this action western/period film entertained and left me wanting more. As Director-Screenwriter John Maclean’s (no, not Bruce Willis) first foray into moving pictures (he was allegedly a musician prior to filmmaking), he shows promise in his story-telling skills that were probably harnessed further during his time spent playing music. The visuals put me smack-dab in the American Frontier, but the sounds of the wilderness and the acoustic guitar-led soundtrack really immersed me. Add the cherry of Michael Fassbender’s (12 Years a Slave, Inglorious Basterds) Silas, a bounty hunter hired by Jay to protect him on his journey, and you have the buddy film-black comedy characteristics needed to drive along what could have been an utterly-boring odyssey if done poorly.
Slow West made its worldwide debut at Sundance in January 2015 where it won the Grand Jury Prize. It’s United States release will be on May 15th, 2015 nationwide.