Slow West tells the story of a young Scot named Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee doing his best Jay Baruchel impression) travelling across Colorado in search of his lost love Rose (Caren Pistorius). Almost immediately, Jay is saved from bandits by Silas (Michael Fassbender) and from then on, it’s a western version of The Odd Couple, except writer/director John Maclean replaces much of the comedy with despair. The wild west depicted in Slow West (which incidentally is New Zealand standing in for the midwestern plains) is the saddest, loneliest place imaginable. Still, in spite of its melancholy, Slow West manages to be a very enjoyable movie, and even a surprisingly funny one at times.
Going into Slow West, I had one expectation: that the title would have some deep meaning to be revealed during the course of the movie. I was let down in that regard but that was really the only disappointment I had coming out – I still don’t understand the title and feel like there’s something there to get.
Anyway, as far as the movie itself, Fassbender and Smit-McPhee make a very good pair, and that’s fortunate because we spend a lot of time with them as they make their way to Rose. Fassbender gives us a convincing tough guy with a heart of
gold silver tin. Smit-McPhee is well cast as the naive, good-hearted foreigner. Ben Mendelsohn, who really impressed me in Mississippi Grind, makes a quick appearance as a scummy outlaw and looks the part. And yes, everything in this paragraph reads like a back-handed compliment, but it’s coming from a good place, I swear.
Slow West climaxes in a shootout. I don’t
think I have to tag that as a spoiler, do I? You knew it was going to happen. The way the shootout plays out, though, is well done and is much different than I expected. It even includes a few surreal moments that worked really well (especially one involving a jar of salt).
Overall, Slow West is a solid, though sad, tale from the wild west. Much like the story told by an old gang member, it entertained me throughout its 85 minute run time with its unusual mix of sadness and death with a hint of offbeat comedy. It’s definitely worth tracking down, and I give it a score of eight wanted posters out of ten.