In a Valley of Violence
Horror fans know director Ti West for his cult classic horror film House of the Devil, and the horror films V/H/S, The Innkeepers and The Sacrament. His latest, starring Ethan Hawke and John Travolta, is a major departure from his usual projects, a capable, full-on homage to Sergio Leone westerns. Hawke plays Paul, a drifter who finds himself in a frontier ghost town with a few remaining inhabitants. He and his dog immediately get into some trouble with Gilly (James Ransome), the son of the town marshal (Travolta). Bad things transpire—this is sort of John Wick set in the old wild West—and Paul sets out for revenge. The resultant gunfights are nicely staged, accentuated by good work from Hawke, Travolta and Ransome. While Hawke is always reliable these days, Travolta’s film career has been on a bit of downslide (one of a few his career has endured). His performance here as a semi-crooked lawman with a small streak of decency is actually funny at times, and consists of his best work in a film in over five years. (He was also quite good as Robert Shapiro in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story). The film’s biggest surprise is Taissa Farmiga, providing solid comic relief as a fast-talking hotel operator. West does admirable work on the Western playground. The movie doesn’t feel all that original or groundbreaking, but it does look good, has some solid acting, mixing in some nice dark humor for an overall good time. (Available for rent through iTunes, On Demand and Amazon.com during a limited theatrical release.)
3 The AccountantThis plays out like a deranged Batman-with-a-calculator action flick. Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a high functioning autistic man who has managed to harness his extreme intelligence with numbers and physical tics down into the strangest of professions. By day, he’s your average accountant helping a farm owner find tax loopholes to save a few thousand bucks. At night, he’s some sort of accountant ninja who can take out a room full of mob guys with a dinner knife and some totally Batman forearm blasts to the face. Christian takes jobs laundering books for dirty folks all over the world and, while he does have a modest, sparsely decorated home, he also has a mobile man cave—or, should I say, Batcave—that keeps all the spoils of his riches—money, gold, Jackson Pollock paintings and, yes, collector’s items like Batman comic books. During one job trying to find missing money for a prosthetics company led by John Lithgow, he takes a liking to fellow accountant Dana (the invaluable Anna Kendrick), and they conspire to find the missing money, which, of course, wasn’t really supposed to happen. Maybe I’m the only one who sees this movie as Batman doing taxes. Maybe that makes me some sort of amateurish idiot who likes movies that are actually a little on the bad side just because they play out in a weird way in his overreaching mind. If so, I say “Hooray!” to that. My ability to make a movie something else in my head means I have a better chance of making my movie ticket money well spent instead of blown dollars, like the money I blew on that The Girl on the Train piece of shit.