Slow West movie review: dark horseplay

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Slow West green light

Michael Fassbender is never not worth watching, and his unique blend of cynical smarts and weary humor is perfectly suited to this bitterly funny road trip.
I’m “biast” (pro): adore Michael Fassbender

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Michael Fassbender. What else do you need to know? Michael Fassbender is never not worth watching, and that remains the case in Slow West. This is basically The Frisco Kid — you remember, that 1979 comedy with Gene Wilder as a rabbi and Harrison Ford as the scoundrel who helps him get across the Old West to San Francisco — as remade by the Coen Brothers. It’s far more Coen Brothers than the Coens’ own actual Western remake, True Grit, in fact, and Fassbender’s unique blend of cynical smarts and weary humor is perfectly suited to this dry, bitter road trip through “violence and suffering” on the way to (hopefully) “dreams and toil.” (Yeah, even the ultimate destination lacks a certain fully embraceable optimism.) Fassbender (X-Men: Days of Future Past) is the scoundrel, of course, a former outlaw named Silas who takes young Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) — not a rabbi — under his wing, taking pity on this “jackrabbit in a den of wolves,” though Silas may have another motive, too. Jay has journeyed from Scotland in search of his true love, Rose (Caren Pistorius), mostly seen in flashbacks as Jay regales Silas with tales of her perfection as they transverse the post-Civil War American West in her direction; she had fled Scotland for reasons that will eventually reveal themselves. The delusions of love and freedom, both so often not what they seem, pop up via a sporadic stream of bloody savagery and black comedy, sometimes simultaneously, and if there’s not much new in that, first-time writer-director John Maclean makes gorgeous use of his New Zealand locations, and of Fassbender, who cements us in every moment with his usual effortless charisma.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Slow West for its representation of girls and women.

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