“The thing about stories, they never really end do they? We’re still telling the same stories we’ve always told, just with different names, faces.” A great meta quote that ends a probably overly meta scene (the WB mention is too much) but kicks off the film’s fascinating re-examination of narrative truth and fiction, identity and choice, binaries and in-betweens in an old but new world. As the plot picks up it stumbles though; the story mechanics are convoluted and the stakes feel strangely low.
As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger, announces his arrival. (IMDb)
The hat full of shit and sex jokes fail to impress (the recurring chaste prostitute gag aside), but the abundance of casual f-bombs and the million ways to die-schtick together make for a fun parody of the typically brooding Western genre that looks great to boot. Unfortunately, the too-long story (a point for being unexpectedly so, I suppose) and its lead (MacFarlane is more like a comedian on set than an actual character) never really feel like anything more than empty vehicles for the humour.
With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. (IMDb)
Affleck’s Nick acts suspicious from the get-go here, which feels sudden and anti-climatic; add in awkward cuts and unnaturally quick dialogue and you have a first half-hour that fails to latch on despite a well-crafted atmosphere. Yet led by Pike’s excellent turn a shocking plot grabs a hold from here: First uncertainty abounds as the line between victim and villain is blurred, then definite and bloody revelations follow as the line is made startlingly clear once again in a haunting final act.