Director: Ti West
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransone
Release Date: December 27, 2016
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 9.5/10
Disc Rating: 7/10
Ethan Hawke stars as Paul, a lone drifter who wanders into the forgotten town of Denton, Texas – dubbed by locals as the “valley of violence”. There, he picks a fight with the wrong man, Gilly (James Ransone), the troublemaking son of the town’s unforgiving Marshal (John Travolta). As tensions arise between Paul and Gilly, an inevitable act of violence starts a disastrous chain reaction that quickly drags the whole town into the bloody crosshairs of revenge. Only the world-weary Marshal struggles to stop the violent hysteria, but after a gruesome discovery about Paul’s past…there’s no stopping the escalation.
A fun, old school western revenge tale, ‘In A Valley of Violence’ follows a lone stranger by the name of Paul (Hawke) headed to Mexico intent to begin a new life. Albeit a warning from a drunken preacher to pass around, already nearing his destination Paul can’t resist passing through a nearly empty, uninviting town named Denton (and referred to as the “valley of violence” by the locals and those aware of its existence). Intending merely to pass through and keep his head down in order to avoid any potential trouble, once Paul is repeatedly provoked by the son of the local Marshal (Travolta), the town’s self proclaimed ruler Gilly (Ransone), a final act of unwarranted violence pushes Paul’s hand. Before long the town erupts into a mass of bullets and bloodletting as the vengeful stranger forgoes his previous promise and begins a one man war against the locals who wronged him and anyone else unwise enough to get in his way.
Written, edited and directed by talented filmmaker Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, The Sacrament) who does an outstanding job at the helm of ‘In A Valley of Violence’ guiding his own script and delivering an incredibly fun and true old school western. The film also owes its share of credit to the talented folks who comprise the cast including Ethan Hawke (Training Day), John Travolta (Pulp Fiction), Taissa Farmiga (TV’s American Horror Story), James Ransone (the Sinister franchise), Karen Gillan (The Big Short) and more, nearly all delivering notable performances in each of their respective roles. Nonetheless Ransone manages to effortlessly steal many of the scenes he occupies with his fantastic portrayal of the despicable, self absorbed, and self proclaimed tough guy son of Travolta’s Marshal which Ransone captures flawlessly.
‘In A Valley of Violence’ is a perfect throwback to the carefree and unavoidably entertaining westerns of old. Beautifully shot on 35mm and embraced throughout with its clear grain and other obvious (and glorious) film elements, not to mention a grin inducing opening credits sequence that clearly displays exactly what type of film you’re in for. Ti West delivers a ridiculously enjoyable (in the best possible way), dusty and violent ride that nary misses its mark whether with the surroundings, attire or simply its unapologetic dark humor. Populated by questionable characters all around, each clearly with their own secrets and dark motives, yet even the vilest of the villains are a blast to follow as their egos and idiotic fearlessness only further contributes to the simple overall fun in the best possible way. Those familiar with director Ti West’s work will know that ‘In A Valley of Violence’ is certainly quite the change of pace (or genre) from West’s previous filmmaking efforts, and a change he manages to capture brilliantly in every aspect from the gritty and worn appearance of the film itself to the actions and details of each character, sequence and set, beautifully coming together into one of his best efforts yet. His capable guidance is only further complimented by a fantastic cast that manages to really dive into their performances and help to create one truly memorable experience. Any fellow fan of West’s impressive filmmaking career, as well as anyone who enjoys a refreshingly simple and wildly fun old school western will definitely want to make a point of checking out ‘In A Valley of Violence’ when you have the opportunity to do so; you won’t want to miss out on this one.
Overall, ‘In A Valley of Violence’ is a beautifully shot, wonderfully constructed and wildly exciting western that delivers nonstop fun, enjoyably ridiculous and vile characters and absolutely gorgeous scenery and attire that all comes together to form one of the most enjoyable films of the year. Director Ti West (whose work I’ve been a fan of for many years) tries his hand at a remarkably different type of film than usual and does an outstanding job in the process, never missing his mark throughout its course. I can’t possibly recommend ‘In A Valley of Violence’ highly enough to fellow fans of filmmaker Ti West and anyone who enjoys a simple, fun and full on guns blazing western revenge tale. It’s certainly well worth the cost of a rental at the absolute least.
The Blu-ray release of ‘In A Valley of Violence’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks pretty fantastic as a whole and delivers a crisp, clean and colorful presentation from start to finish that still retains plenty of grain and other artifacts representative of shooting on beautiful 35mm which suits the film perfectly. It holds up impressively even during the darkly lit and fast moving sequences, never resulting in anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a top notch high definition video presentation that not only looks fantastic, but remains true to the film source, it should easily please.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack provides a wonderful compliment to the film with its consistently crisp, clean and quite active audio presentation. It frequently utilizes all five available channels in order to immerse the viewer within the wonderful score by Jeff Grace and to send dust, bullets and more throughout the various speakers when appropriate, while always making certain that any dialogue which may be occurring simultaneously never becomes distorted or rendered inaudible. Overall, this is a fantastic 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that shouldn’t disappoint in the slightest.
The Blu-ray release of ‘In A Valley of Violence’ doesn’t include much in the way of supplemental material. Included on the release is the brief Featurette ‘Behind the Scenes of In A Valley of Violence’ (running 2 minutes in length) which includes some behind the scenes footage and interviews/comments with the cast and crew.