Cast: Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson, David Arquette, Sid Haig, Lil Simmons, Sean Young, Kathryn Morris, Michael Paré
Writer/Director: S. Craig Zahler
Synopsis: A sheriff (Kurt Russell), his elderly deputy (Richard Jenkins), a dandy gunslinger (Matthew Fox), and a cowboy with a broken leg (Patrick Wilson) set out to retrieve captives abducted by savage cannibals.
Animal deaths: In a movie with extremely grisly scenes of carnage, a horse being shot is possibly the least gruesome death, but still potentially upsetting to horse lovers.
Capsule review: At the beginning of the film: Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) serves up soup to his deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), who is disappointed that it’s just a tasteless chowder. The scene is a perfect metaphor for the film itself: If you go in expecting a rousing action film, you’ll be just as disappointed as Chicory. There’s almost no action until the last 30 minutes of the film, and there’s very little of Russell, who’s clearly the main draw for audiences.
The following detailed synopsis contains spoilers:
In the old West town of Bright Hope, Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell) is suspicious of a drifter (David Arquette) after his deputy Chicory (Jenkins) tips him off. Sure enough, the drifter is a thief and a murderer. Even worse, he’s fleeing from cannibals who’ve already killed his partner in crime, and they’ve tracked him to Bright Hope. After being shot in the leg and locked up in jail, the town’s only doctor Samantha O’Dwyer (Lil Simmons) is fetched to attend to his leg. In the middle of the night, they go missing and a four-man posse, including her husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson) and gunslinger John Brooder (Matthew Fox) set out to get them back.
What follows is a long, painfully slow pursuit full of colorful observations by Chicory, the worsening of Arthur’s leg and revelations about why Brooder hates Indians so much.
Brooder is a fastidious man who values his beautiful horse, his expensive telescope bought in Germany and his own abilities. In town, he favors cream-colored outfits, which are all the more impractical on the dusty trail. His highly prized horse, Saucy, is also cream-colored. When the men are attacked in the middle of the night (apparently by Mexican bandits) and the horses stolen, Brooder cannot believe Saucy would let another man ride her, especially a “Greaser.” He’s sadly too right: After Saucy refused to go with the bandits, Brooder finds her writhing in agony. He is forced to shoot her after saying, “Thank you for your service.”
Continuing their rescue mission on foot, the posse does eventually find the cannibals’ lair, where — at long last if you’re in this movie for the gore — a bloody battle to the death ensues. The movie takes so long getting to its destination that audiences impatient for carnage are going to be mighty bored. Whether the final showdown is worth it — or whether you care about these characters at all — is debatable.
For full spoilers regarding the human characters (most of whom meet very grisly deaths), please check out The MoviePooper.