Movie Review: Drifters and Desperadoes have it out in a town called “Big Kill”



If you want to film a Western, you could do worse than Bonanza Creek (Movie) Ranch in Sante Fe, New Mexico. It’s got a vivid sense of a place and time, unspoiled vistas and striking topography.

And there are nicely aged leftover Western buildings — saloon, hotel, the works — settings used when TV’s “Comanche Moon” “Lonesome Dove” prequel filmed there over a decade ago.

But nobody there will be bragging about “Big Kill” using it as a location. This foot-dragging C-Western has a few “names” to dress it up and make it sellable to financiers — Jason Patric, Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Paré and Danny Trejo show up in supporting roles.

From it’s dopey and inept opening — explicit sex interrupted by a noisy if clumsy shoot-out — to its laughably drawn-out climax, this is one poor excuse for a horse opera.

There are no cattle or wild stallions involved. So the roundup here is of worn out Western cliches — the Eastern tenderfoot forced to take up arms, the good-bad men, the “preacher” who is too handy with a pistol, the gunfighter dressed like a 1970s TV pimp.

Give-aways that what you’re about to watch is going to be indulgent, tin-eared and just…off? The unknown writer-director (Scott Martin) has written himself a co-starring role. Another? Running time.

Editing is the heart of filmmaking, and that doesn’t just mean cutting the footage in a coherent and professional way. Clint Eastwood always took scripts and stripped two thirds of the dialogue out before the camera rolled for a reason.

Having Paré, ending his glorified opening act cameo as a Cavalry officer say, “Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me. I have things to take care of” is the very definition of unnecessary, leaden lines sucking the life right out of the script.

The other kind of editing rears its head in ugliness, too. The film’s opening shootout — two thieving, womanizing cowpokes (Clint Hummel and Scott Martin) have to shoot their way past General Danny Trejo’s Mexican troops (Couldn’t get Danny to cut his hair into something more soldierly?).

Cut to a medium  shot of a soldier felled as he stands on top of a wall, cut AGAIN as he hits the ground — an obviously short “bend over” tumble that this “dead” man braces for — just as obviously.

Martin gives his “names” star entrances — filming them from below or above and behind. Gives them lines he should have cut. And then makes the movie about Travis and Jake (Hummel and Martin) teaming up with Philly accountant Jim (Christoph Sanders) as they mosey across Texas and New Mexico, making their way to Big Kill, Arizona.

That’s where Jim’s brother runs the saloon. It’s a silver strike boom town, so Jim says. He doesn’t know. The boom has gone bust.

There, the guys run afoul of unfriendly locals, from The Preacher (Patric) to the shovel-wielding undertaker, Digger (Paul Blott), Bartender Fred (Toby Bronson) to the gunman Johnny Kane (Phillips).

Did I mention there’s a hooker named Felicity Stiletto (Stephanie Beran)?

Situations, characters and lines feel recycled from a hundred earlier Westerns, the Mexican Army posse that dares to cross the U.S. border pursuing Jake and Travis, for instance.

“They can’t DO that!”

The Preacher recruits his flock at the saloon.

“You boys’ve been a little REMISS with your devotions…See you Sunday.”

Random killings, murders in the street, the “You don’t belong here” shopkeeper’s daughter (Elizabeth McLaughlin), the Big Black Man (Jermaine Washington) that some fool calls “boy,” the tenderfoot who eschews firearms.

” I notice you ain’t heeled…why don’t you pick up a Colt before we leave?”

Among the cast, the younger leads aren’t bad, if a little starved of screen charisma. Patric just makes you wonder, “What HAPPENED to you, man?”

Phillips and Trejo acquit themselves well, even when delivering cliches.

“I heard you were fast!”

The troops are here, and the tropes. It’s just that none of this pewter-plated “Silverado” knock-off amounts to much — outdoor scenes all shot in the early morning sun, sunlit interiors looking authentic, but with only the most banal dialogue and action (save for a pretty unexpected stabbing) animating them.

I love the genre and appreciate any effort in this cinematic field. But you’ve got to do something with the cliches, realize what you can cut out (83 minutes of movie in a two-hour+ picture?), figure out what you can show visually instead of having characters explain and for the Love of God don’t cut to an extra falling three feet when we’ve just seen him tumble off a ten foot wall.



MPAA Rating: R for violence, some sexuality and brief language

Cast: Scott Martin, Clint Hummel, Christoph Sanders, Jason Patric, Lou Diamond Phillips, Danny Trejo, Stephanie Beran, K.C. Clyde, Audrey Walters and Michael Paré

Credits: Written and directed by Scott Martin. A Cinedigm release.

Running time: 2:02


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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