Category Archives: Western

The Power of the Dog (2021) Review


The Power of the Dog

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Animal cruelty & content that may disturb
Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank
Kirsten Dunst as Rose Gordon
Jesse Plemons as George Burbank
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon
Thomasin McKenzie as Lola
Genevieve Lemon as Mrs. Lewis
Keith Carradine as Governor Edward
Frances Conroy as Old Lady
Director: Jane Campion

A domineering rancher (Benedict Cumberbatch) responds with mocking cruelty when his brother (Jesse Plemons) brings home a new wife (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), until the unexpected comes to pass.

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I was lucky enough to catch The Power of the Dog in cinemas. I hadn’t seen any movies from director Jane Campion beforehand, but I knew of some of her work like with The Piano and Top of the Lake, and this would be her return to making movies. It also has a great cast with the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons so that was enough to get me interested. I watched a teaser of the film, otherwise I went in fairly blind. It had a lot of anticipation leading up to its release, and having seen it I can say that its well-earned.


The first thing you need to know going into The Power of the Dog is that it is a slow burn, and I can see that really turning people off. In fact, when it does premiere on Netflix, I can easily see people turning it off after the first 20 minutes. The film does take a while to really reveal what the story really is about. I think it earns its over 2 hours runtime and pacing however, everything flows naturally and there’s a lot of attention to detail. Campion is less interested in plot than layered character dynamics, it is definitely more of a character study than a western. It is deeply complex in its characters and themes, with toxic masculinity and repressed desire being very much the leading themes, especially with the lead character. It has an effectively dreadful, unnerving and haunting atmosphere throughout, and only builds up tension even more as the film progresses. It comes together by the end in a very rewarding way with its ending.


The acting from this talented cast is fantastic as expected. First of all, this is basically Benedict Cumberbatch’s movie, and very likely his best performance yet. In the complex lead role of Phil Burbank, despite initially coming across as one note, Cumberbatch pulls off the subtle nuances of this character. This is the darkest that Cumberbatch has acted in a role, but its more than that, the journey his character goes on is unexpected. While at first it feels like he overshadows the other actors, the rest of the cast are great too. Kirsten Dunst gives a very subtle and internalised performance, playing a woman who is pushed to high levels of distress. One of her best performances. Jesse Plemons as usual is reliably good, though he does sort of disappear into the background after the first act. Kodi Smit-McPhee is great here, probably the best performance I’ve seen from him. He gets a lot of screentime in the second half, and you really see his progression over the course of the movie. His quiet and reserved character of Peter takes an interest in Cumberbatch’s Phil, and the scenes between the two are captivating. There are other brief appearances from other actors like Thomasin McKenzie too, who are also good in their scenes.


Jane Campion directs this film excellently. There is some beautiful cinematography from Ari Wegner, taking advantage of the gorgeous location and landscapes they are filming at. At the same time, it does well at capturing the intimacy and tension of certain scenes, especially with the close ups. Jonny Greenwood’s score is amazing and practically its own character, it really adds to the tension and unsettling feeling, helping to draw you into the film.


The Power of the Dog is a steadily paced, visually gorgeous, complex and gripping character drama. It’s excellently directed and has great performances from its ensemble cast, especially from Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee. After watching this, I really want to check out more of Jane Campion’s work. The Power of the Dog is one of the best movies of the year thus far.


A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) Review


A Fistful of Dollars

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Clint Eastwood as “Joe”, the Man with No Name
Marianne Koch as Marisol
John Wells as Ramón Rojo
W. Lukschy as Sheriff John Baxter
S. Rupp as Esteban Rojo
Joe Edger as Piripero
Antonio Prieto as Don Miguel Rojo
Jose Calvo as Silvanito
Margherita Lozano as Consuelo Baxter
Daniel Martín as Julio
Benny Reeves as Rubio
Director: Sergio Leone

The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) enters the Mexican village of San Miguel in the midst of a power struggle among the three Rojo brothers (Antonio Prieto, Benny Reeves, Sieghardt Rupp) and sheriff John Baxter (Wolfgang Lukschy). When a regiment of Mexican soldiers bearing gold intended to pay for new weapons is waylaid by the Rojo brothers, the stranger inserts himself into the middle of the long-simmering battle, selling false information to both sides for his own benefit.

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I wanted to check out all of Sergio Leone’s films, I had once watched spaghetti western trilogy (also known as The Man with No Name trilogy) many years ago, and I did want to watch them again. Starting it off with A Fistful of Dollars back in 1964, the first movie in the trilogy is a very solid western, despite some of its datedness. It’s very much a product of its time, which helps to overlook many of the lesser elements with regard to story, direction and the like, and still works as an influential classic.


The plot and story of A Fistful of Dollars pretty low key when compared to the third movie in Leone’s trilogy, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It does take a while for the plot to really get going, but it’s fun for sure. I will say that the plot does get a little too tangled in itself at some points, and really a bit messy. I also wouldn’t say that the movie dragged (the movie is just under 100 minutes long) but my interest was waning a bit at times. That’s until the great third act which Leone was really saving up the best for, and it really paid off. The movie is quite entertaining too, and there’s a good amount of humour thrown in there.


Clint Eastwood’s performances as the mysterious The Man with No Name (in this movie having the name of Joe) is iconic across the trilogy. You just can’t imagine anyone else in this role, with his charisma, the delivery of his lines, and the way he carries himself. He really just steals all the scenes he’s in, he owns every moment, and he’s essentially carrying this movie. The villains are also scene chewing and work very well, especially Gian Maria Volonte (credited as John Wells) as the lead villain.


Sergio Leone’s direction is top notch for sure, and the style (which became very influential to other westerns made since then) played a huge part in that. It is a little hindered by its lower budget but all things considering, the movie on a technical level generally turned out rather well. The cinematography is great, the shots are very well composed, especially with the use of close ups, and the landscapes suit the story and overall film very well. Those closeup shots of people in tense moments (particularly standoff scenes) are particularly effective, and became one of the staples of the Western genre. A lot of the dubbing can look quite off, same with the sound design and mixing, it’s very noticeable too and will distract some (it certainly did for me until I got used to it). On the other hand, the music by Ennio Morricone is absolutely fantastic and iconic, one of the highlights of the film for sure. It’s pivotal to the film for sure and adds an atmosphere to many of the scenes, elevating them to a whole other level.


A Fistful of Dollars is a good western that redefined the genre. It was well directed and featured some good performances, with Clint Eastwood leading the movie really well. The rest of the trilogy with For a Few Dollars More and The Good the Bad and the Ugly is much better than this for sure but it’s worth watching at some point if you haven’t already, even if you’re not the biggest fan of westerns.

The Kid (2019) Review

Time: 100 Minutes
Ethan Hawke as Pat Garrett
Dane DeHaan as Billy the Kid
Jake Schur as Rio Cutler
Leila George as Sara Cutler
Chris Pratt as Grant Cutler
Adam Baldwin as Bob Olinger
Vincent D’Onofrio as Sheriff Romero
Director: Vincent D’Onofrio

In 1879 Rio (Jake Schur) and his teenage sister (Leila George) go on the run across the American Southwest to escape from their violent uncle. Along the way, Rio encounters the infamous outlaw Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and the legendary lawman Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke). He soon finds himself caught in the crossfire as Billy and Garrett square off in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

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I heard about The Kid for a little while, it was an upcoming western directed by Vincent D’Onofrio and stars Dane DeHaan, Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt. It looked alright but I didn’t have a great desire to see it as soon as possible, I didn’t know when I’d actually see it. Then I found it on a plane so that’s how I watched it. The Kid isn’t great and it’s not nearly as exciting as the trailers made it look, but it’s directed pretty well and most of the performances are solid, bringing the movie up to a level just above average.

I heard that much of the movie is inaccurate to real life, but I’m not familiar with the real life Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, so I’m just going to disregard all real life events for the time being and treat the movie as a fictional story. I should mention that what is shown in the trailer isn’t necessarily what the movie is focussing on (for example, Chris Pratt’s character isn’t a huge part of the movie), so it’s probably best not to watch it if you haven’t already. It’s a slow burn of a movie, which isn’t necessarily bad but it can feel like a drag at points, with some occasionally some bursts of reasonably entertaining moments. At a point I just stopped caring about the story and just watched it play out. As far as Westerns go it’s fine, but it doesn’t do enough to really separate itself from similar movies. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long but it feels like at least 2 hours long.

This is probably Dane DeHaan’s best performance in a little while, here he plays Billy the Kid and it was great casting. Ethan Hawke is great as usual, here playing real life lawman Pat Garrett. If there’s a reason to see the movie, it’s for both of these actors giving solid performances. Chris Pratt this time plays a villain as the main characters’ uncle, he’s actually really convincing and I’d like to see him in more of these kind of darker roles. However he probably has less than 10 minutes of screentime, so don’t expect much of him. Jake Schur and Leila George are some characters who get caught between Billy the Kid and Ethan Hawke. I think it’s worth pointing out that Jake’s father Jordan is a producer on the movie, which is probably the only reason he was cast in this role. Jake’s character is really the protagonist of the movie, even when DeHaan and Hawke get the spotlight, Schur is in almost every scene, and unfortunately him and his story just wasn’t really interesting to me. On paper I saw what they were going for, but it was just difficult to care about that story. Actingwise, Schur has some okay moments but on the whole just didn’t quite work, especially when placed alongside Hawke and DeHaan. George fares a little better but you see less of her halfway through the movie.

The Kid is the first film I’ve seen from Vincent D’Onofrio, and he clearly knows his way behind a camera. Locations and production designs are appropriate for a western, and the violence and action scenes, while not very present, were handled well. Occasionally there are some parts of the directing that weren’t so great, the thing that stood out to me most is that Chris Pratt has an incredibly fake looking beard even though it is minor, just very distracting.

The Kid is a relatively okay Western but it’s by no means a must see. It moves at a snail’s pace, fails to keep your attention, and occasionally becomes dull. What makes it work is D’Onofrio’s direction of the whole thing, as well as the solid performances from DeHaan, Hawke and Pratt. If you were hyped from the trailer, you might be underwhelmed by the end result of the movie itself, but you still might be able to get something out of it.

BloodRayne 2: Deliverance (2007)

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Bloodrayne 2

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Natassia Malthe as Rayne
Zack Ward as Billy the Kid
Michael Pare as Pat Garrett
Chris Coppola as Newton Piles
Michael Teigen as Slime Bag Franson
Michael Eklund as The Preacher
Director: Uwe Boll

A hundred years later, the dhampir Rayne (Natassia Malthe) has arrived in the town of Deliverance where a group of vampire cowboys led by Billy the Kid (Zack Ward) have emerged, who is hell-bent on creating his own kingdom. Rayne aligns herself with Pat Garret (Michael Pare), a member of the long-thought-dead Brimstone society, a dishonest preacher (Michael Eklund), and a lowlife named Franson (Michael Teigen) to stop him.

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Uwe Boll’s Bloodrayne was a terrible movie and I knew that before watching it. Still, nothing could prepare me for how awful its sequel could be. Bloodrayne 2 has bad acting, awful camera work and a plot easily summarised in 3 sentences drawn out to 90 minutes. Although the first movie had some entertaining moments (intentional or not), this movie has none at all.


The story is very drawn out; whereas the first Bloodrayne’s plot flew by really fast, this movie has a straight forward plot that is drawn out to incredible lengths. The dialogue is even worse here than in the previous movie, I swear it’s like a 12 year old tried to write an episode of Deadwood and he threw in some vampires. It also contains probably the worst final lines to a movie I’ve seen so far. After a while I actually figured out that Uwe Boll didn’t really want a Bloodrayne movie, he just wanted a vampire movie set in the wild west; I don’t think that using it as an excuse was the best idea, for example, it doesn’t make much sense for Rayne to have her blades when most of the time she uses guns.


Natassia Malthe replaces Kristanna Loken as Rayne and she did as well as the original actress, which is to say, not very good; however to be fair, none of these actors are given anything to work with. Zack Ward plays Billy the Kid, who’s a vampire and he’s not good either and he may be worse as a villain than Ben Kingsley in the first movie, topping it off with a strange unidentifiable accent. Chris Coppola plays a reporter and he was very annoying, he just made me wish that his character would be killed off. The acting was pretty much the same from everyone. The only over the top acting was in the first scene of Michael Eklund playing a preacher, that scene was hilarious, if only for how over the top he went, it makes Meat Loaf from the first movie look subtle. Unfortunately that’s the only hilarious acting moment; none of these actors leave an impression on you.


The cinematography is very clunky; it looks like the camera man forgot to use a tripod as the camera was shaky, even in steady shots. Whereas the previous movie had buckets of blood that were very over the top, the blood has been reduced; although it at first sounds like Uwe Boll made the right call in reducing it, the first movie’s gore at least entertained. The action scenes aren’t good, and there are even less of them than in the first movie; it’s a shame because even if this was a bad movie, it could’ve been a bit entertaining, like the first movie from time to time. Even the locations were bad, throughout the movie; the weather keeps also kept changing, one moment it’s desert, next moment it’s snowy, you can clearly see that this was shot in Canada.


This movie makes Bloodrayne actually look good, at least it had entertaining moments. This movie was just completely dull, with no redeeming qualities. In retrospect of my Bloodrayne review, there are actually some ‘so bad it’s good’ moments and if you look at the movie at a certain way, it can be entertaining. It’s not the same here, it’s just a bore.

Django Unchained (2012)


Django Unchained

Time: 165 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence and offensive language
Jamie Foxx as Django
Christoph Waltz as Dr King Schultz
Leonardo Dicaprio as Calvin Candie
Kerry Washington as Broomhilda von Shaft
Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen
Director: Quentin Tarantino

In 1858 a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) is freed by Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German bounty hunter and former dentist. Schultz offers that in exchange for Django’s help to find the men he is looking for, he’ll help him rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from a plantation in Mississippi.

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Quentin Tarantino brings his brilliant writing to this movie. Many of his movies have western influences like Kill Bill and Reservoir Dogs, so it is only fitting that he finally managed to make a proper western. The dialogue of this movie is very entertaining but still has range- as many of his movies have. One example of Tarantino’s great writing in this movie involves white hoods – it’s funnier than it sounds here and is hands down one of the best scenes in the whole movie. Another entertaining thing that he brings to most of his movies is the violence. Non-Tarantino fans may not like it but if you are a Tarantino fan, chances are you are entertained by every bloody moment. The violence is deliberately made over the top, at times it can be very funny, which the majority of Tarantino violence is. Not every moment is fun though, there are scenes with slaves which can be unpleasant to the average viewer, for example there is a scene where two slaves are forced to fight to the death. These scenes are about in the middle of the movie and don’t happen very often but it is worth mentioning. Because this film deals with slavery this is probably Tarantino’s most controversial movie but I feel that it was necessary to reference it, not just shying away from lurid subject matters. If there is one thing that Quentin Tarantino never does is shy away from anything.


Jamie Foxx was great in this movie, it’s cool seeing Django change from a timid slave to a badass gunslinger and you can really see his development as a character. Christoph Waltz is back in a Tarantino film again and shows all his talents here as someone who knows a lot about bounty hunting. Another person that should be mentioned is Leonardo Dicaprio, he plays a plantation owner that later plays a big part in the movie. Dicaprio is a great actor but for some reason this didn’t seem like his type of role: he however absolutely kills it as his character and really shows that he has the range to portray both good characters and absolute vile characters as well (as shown in this movie). The best scene with his character involves a broken glass, that whole scene to me really personifies his character. Also Samuel L. Jackson was perfect in this movie. He plays a house slave to Dicaprio’s character. He was entertaining and really convincing in his role. Kerry Washington isn’t in the movie as much as the previously mentioned cast but does well in her role when she’s on screen. If there is one thing that’s in every Tarantino movie apart from excellent writing, it’s the fact he can get the best out of the cast that he has. Every one of these actors gets to have their chance to shine.


This movie also looked really good. This film being a western is set in many places. Another thing that Quentin Tarantino can do is pick the right music for every moment. Like Inglorious Basterds it’s not set in modern times but he still manages to pick the right music. At some point there is a rap song and somehow, it just fitted with the moment.


This is another Quentin Tarantino movie that manages to entertain and surprise. Almost all of his movies leave me with a great amount of satisfaction, he really gives you your money’s worth. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, and it’s overall highly satisfying.