I’ve been trying to see this for quite a while. I missed its brief appearance in cinemas, failed to pick up the DVD and then, by chance, noticed it when I was scrolling around Netflix looking for something to watch. I was initially delighted for the opportunity to catch up, but, inevitably, I suppose, was left feeling a little disappointed, because reviews I’d read on its release had led me to expect something amazing; but John Maclean’s film didn’t thrill me as I’d been promised.
Slow West, as you might expect, is set in America but is actually filmed in New Zealand and though the widescreen vistas are undoubtedly handsome, they didn’t really convince as genuine locations. Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a vulnerable sixteen year old Scottish lad, on a mission to find his former ‘sweetheart’, Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius), who has fled to America with her papa, after he accidentally killed Jay’s wealthy father in a brawl. Jay is rescued from an encounter with bad guys and befriended by the more experienced Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) who offers to chaperone him to his eventual destination – but Jay is unaware that Selleck is actually a bounty hunter, after the reward that’s been offered for the Scottish runaways. As it turns out, Selleck is only one of a whole crew of bounty hunters all intent on claiming the hundred dollars ‘dead or alive.’ But who will get there first?
As I said, it’s all handsomely mounted but there’s no real sense of urgency in the film and despite the fat that a high body count mounts up throughout proceedings, (something that Maclean focuses on only in the film’s closing moments) you don’t really feel the impact of those killings. Throw in occasional jokey appearances by some rather unconvincing Native Americans and an ending that ought to be devastating, but somehow isn’t, and I can’t help feeling that this film has been somewhat overpraised. It’s not awful, you understand, just a bit… meh.