HK and Cult Film News
January 5, 2018
With big-budget, high-profile westerns coming out so few and far between these days--and even those seldom coming up to snuff--it's up to indy filmmakers to take up the slack and give us western fans some of that good old sagebrush entertainment.
The results aren't always stellar, but, as in the case of THE BOUNTY KILLER (Indican Pictures, 2018), they're often made with an enthusiasm for the genre that helps to smooth over any deficiencies.
It helps that this tale of a bounty killer hired to recover a woman kidnapped on her wedding day and held for ransom is visually splendid, shot in Spain on some terrific standing sets amidst great desert locations (seen in Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST) and using drone cameras to give us plenty of sweeping aerial shots as well.
Crispian Belfrage (WEST OF THUNDER) plays the bounty killer with no name, riding into a web of political corruption that includes the town's mayor and low-life sheriff, plus all their various trigger-happy toadies, in a scheme to line their pockets with ill-gotten cash.
Belfrage's anti-hero, who's addicted to smoking opium and guzzling laudenum to forget his Civil War traumas, is somewhat of a cypher--we're never really sure how emotionally or morally invested he is in his mission, sometimes showing signs of empathy but also appearing steely and coldblooded as well.
The mayor's henchmen, the town's lawless lawmen, and the actual kidnappers, led by the repellent Cavendish (Ethan McDowell), are all of the type whose brains are way less developed than their gun hands.
Only their superior numbers and misuse of authority give them an advantage over Bounty Killer, who, it turns out, tends to be a bit careless himself at times (making him more human than the usual Leone superman).
When they have the occasional shootout, as in the two main set pieces that conclude the film, it's a messy affair devoid of sharpshooting or fancy maneuvers--just a lot of bullets, blood, and death.
Much of the film is slow and introspective, perhaps too much so for those looking for a fast-moving shoot-em-up. Bounty Killer spends a lot of time languishing in an opium stupor haunted by Civil War flashbacks (it appears as though the filmmakers enlisted a re-enactment group for these), and the story generally takes its own sweet time getting where it's going.
Performances range from average to good, with Daniel Jordan a standout as medicine show hawker Dr. Rafferty. Belfrage does his best with a role that really isn't sufficiently fleshed-out, while the rest of the gunmen provide adequate villainy so that we enjoy seeing them get theirs.
THE BOUNTY KILLER isn't one of the best westerns you'll ever see, but it's fun entertainment to keep western fans occupied until one of those rare great ones comes along. And it's nice to see someone like director and co-writer Chip Baker (THE PRICE OF DEATH, SIX BULLETS TO HELL) who loves the genre enough to keep carrying that torch.
Runtime: 86 min
Format: 1:78 HD
Sound: Dolby Digital
Genre: Western, Action