28 May 2015

Slow West - film review

From At The Movies, 7:31 pm on 28 May 2015

Directed by John Maclean, starring Michael Fassbender

Slow west is a British-New Zealand co-production with impressive credentials.   It stars the talented Michael Fassbender as the loner drifter, it was written and directed by Scotsman John MacLean, who recently won a Bafta for Best Short Film, and it’s been well-received, I gather, by both the Sundance and the Cannes film festivals.

On the minus side, there’s already been a New Zealand western mostly shot in Central Otago called Good For Nothing, which I hated, and my love of a good, classic western inevitably means I’m impatient with anything that falls short of that.

One thing you can’t quibble about with Slow West is its title. The characters are certainly heading in a westerly direction, and it’s as slow as a wet week.  

Mostly we stay on the road with Jay Cavendish (Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Silas (Michael Fassbender), exchanging monosyllables, and not taking the story much further than 'lone naïve kid' and 'worldly-wise drifter'.  

What was clearly needed was a bit of excitement to take my mind off how slow the proceedings were getting. And it seems the people who made the trailer thought the same thing. They’ve beefed up the action with some stirring, dramatic music. It sounds great, except the real soundtrack is the opposite of this. It’s mostly long, windy pauses, occasionally spiced up with a mournful solo cello that accentuates the lack of thrills and spills, rather than rectifies it.

When, belatedly, a villainous bounty-hunter turns up, backed up by a mostly Kiwi gang of cod desperadoes, it’s frankly too little too late. An hour in, I’d started to lose the will to live. What did all those reputable critics see that I didn’t?

When the haunting closing theme struck up, I leapt out of my seat and headed for the door like a jackrabbit chased by wolves.