become a Patreon patron

film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Slow West movie review: dark horseplay

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.

green light 4 stars

When you purchase or rent almost anything from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, and iTunes (globally), you help support my work at Flick Filosopher. Please use my links when you’re shopping at either service. Thank you!

Slow West (2015)
US/Can release: May 15 2015 (VOD Apr 16 2015)
UK/Ire release: Jun 26 2015

MPAA: rated R for violence and brief language
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap