Thursday, June 6, 2024

Viggo Mortensen directs a Western

Viggo Mortensen directs and co-stars with Vicky Krieps in The Dead Don't Hurt, a Western that looks as if it's trying to follow in the footsteps of genre-busting exercises such as Marlon Brando's One-Eyed Jacks. Defined more by silence than dialogue, the acting in The Dead Don't Hurt, a bit like the movie itself, can border on self-consciousness. Approached with a hyper-awareness of period detail, the movie works its way through two hours and nine minutes, employing a structure that involves abruptly inserted flashbacks. The basic story: A Danish immigrant, played by Mortensen, and a French Canadian woman of independent spirit, portrayed by Krieps, meet in San Francisco and migrate to a frontier outpost in Nevada where Mortensen's Olsen owns a dilapidated cabin. Krieps's Vivienne tidies up, adding warmth to the bleak surroundings, but Vivienne resists domestication -- not that Olsen tries to force it on her. Immigrant soulmates, Olsen and Vivienne try to define new lives in the West. When Olsen joins the Union Army to fight against slavery, Vivienne -- now alone -- has a predictably violent encounter with Weston (Solly McLoud), the town's bully and part owner of the bar where Vivienne has landed a job.  To further complicate matters, Weston's dad (Garret Dillahunt) is in the midst of a shady deal with the town's mayor (Danny Huston). Mortensen strains to defeat Western romanticism as The Dead Don't Hurt builds to the inevitable confrontation between Olsen and Weston. Mortensen only partially succeeds at subverting the genre's macho cliches by tossing a strong woman into a male-dominated pressure cooker. Delivering some of her lines in French, Krieps gives the movie's best performance, but The Dead Don't Hurt seems to be aiming for more than it delivers. 

No comments: