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In a Valley of Violence (2016)

In a Valley of Violence (2016)

Rating: ***1/2

At some point the revenge flick grew out of style, largely for good reason. Most films use women as objects to propel male antiheroes through glorious rampage towards a bloody, dig two graves conclusion. Now, with films like "John Wick" and "In a Valley of Violence" back in vogue it seems women are replaced with dogs. Minor spoiler alert, I guess. 

If you've seen "Wick," you know this means our antihero, played by Ethan Hawke, goes on an old west killing spree after a group of jerks kill his adorable dog for no reason. The result, directed by Ti West of "House of the Devil" fame, is mixed. The good stuff is really good and uses absurdist comedy combined with great action to make a great thriller. 

The stuff that doesn't work feels more lazy than bad, frankly. "Violence" is produced by Blumhouse, which gives me the sense the script didn't get enough time on an editor's desk. That's too bad, because with a little more seasoning I think West's foray into the western genre could have neared the level of some of his earlier work. 

That doesn't ruin the film, thanks to the performances by some of the supporting cast. John Travolta chews scenery as the town marshall; but it's his son, played by James Ransone that steals scenes. He's petulant, ornery and a little out of place in the old west, which makes for great comedy with nearly every character he's with. 

It also provides a welcome distraction to some of the less compelling dialogue. There's a fair share of that when West gets a little lazy with the script as you sense the spots where he gets bogged down by the trappings of the genre and others where he feels inspired by it, which goes back to my earlier point: "Violence" needed another edit or two for it to be great. 

Instead it's a fun notch in West's belt. It also leaves me wondering what West could do with a horror film set in the old west. "Bone Tomahawk" meets "Unforgiven?" Someone call up Jason Blum. 

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