Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Western that falls off its horse

Big Kill, a western featuring cliched dialogue and a cliched story, seems to be trying to celebrate genre but instead winds up feeling shamelessly old hat. Maybe I should say "old cowboy hat." Director Scott Martin, who also wrote the screenplay, tells the story of Jim Andrews (Christoph Sanders) a buttoned-up accountant from Philadelphia who travels west to join his brother (K.C. Clyde), a man who owns a saloon in the God-forsaken town of Big Kill. Depressingly true to genre form, the town has fallen under the control of a corrupt killer who calls himself The Preacher (Jason Patric). The Preacher is assisted in his vile pursuits by gunman Johnny Kane (a posturing Lou Diamond Phillips). Fortunately for Andrews, he's accompanied on his journey by two roguish gamblers (Martin and Clint Hummel) who we meet at the movie's outset. Will these lovable, hard-drinking westerners help Andrews face off against the town's bullies and restore civilized order? That's the movie's big and less-than-compelling question. It doesn't matter that Big Kill traffics in cliches; it does matter that the plot developments feel forced, as do some of the performances. All of this takes place in an old western town that looks as if it had been constructed according to theme park specifications. A badly over-stated score by Kays Al-Atrakchi tries to evoke memories of Westerns gone by but reaches for more than this mediocre horse opera can deliver.

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