In a Valley of Violence (2016)
In a Valley of Violence
Writer, producer and director Ti West makes his first western (though not his first film) with this one, which for many seems to have slipped under the radar. Ethan Hawke plays Paul, a revenger with a past, whose most pressing motivation appears to have been at least partly inspired by John Wick while the film also makes affectionate nod to Italian models. Other members of the cast include John Travolta, playing a Marshall with a false leg.
Straight from the pre-titles opening scene, Western fans can relax back in their saddles and say to themselves 'this is how it is done!' as Ti West finds just the right balance between homage, tension, and saying something fresh. Hawke's anti-hero is a complex creation while Travolta's idiosyncratic character works well in a film which, never the less, does occasionally veer too abruptly in tone between the light-hearted and the violent. As a western maker, a director like Tarantino could take a lesson in something which he seems to have forgotten of the merits of stripped-down B movie making, buoyed up by some interesting dialogue, from this. Critics have rightly pointed out that there are one or two weaker performers further down the cast list, but this is not a major distraction and ultimately the result gets a strong recommendation from me. Great score, too.