Ethan Hawke is someone who many think has made a good career playing quirky characters in independent films. That is only half the story as he has also made a career out of playing characters that tote guns. Besides Ti West’s (V/H/S, The Innkeepers) latest film he has also been in the recent remake of The Magnificent Seven, A Midnight Clear, The Newton Boys, Training Day, Assault on Precinct 13, What Doesn’t Kill You, Predestination, Good Kill, Regression, and Brooklyn’s Finest. In a Valley of Violence he once again totes a gun as a mysterious stranger who rides his horse into the wrong town.
Paul (Ethan Hawke) is at first glance a dusty drifter wandering through Texas with only his dog as company. Upon further examination he is a former Civil War soldier who has deserted and is now trying to flee to Mexico. On his way to the border he stops in the town of Denton soon to realize that it was a mistake to stop there.
Denton, Texas has been dubbed the Valley of Violence by those who have traveled through it. Paul finds that out the hard way despite the fact that he has only stopped there for a bath, meal and some water. Soon he finds himself in the crosshairs of the town Marshal’s son, Gilly (James Ransone – Sinister, Inside Man). One thing leads to another and soon Paul is on a mission of revenge. This drags the Marshal (John Travolta – Grease, Pulp Fiction) and the young hotel manager, Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga – from television’s American Horror Story), into it.
Done in the style of the classic Western, this film features a simple story (which is fairly predictable), minimal dialogue and loads of gunfights. Add in some nice cinematography and an appropriate score then you have another Sergio Leone homage. Done in the style of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western. While it will not make big splashes with a wide range of people those who do like this style of film will be suitably entertained.
Ethan Hawke is a perfect choice as the odd and damaged ex-soldier. You believe that he is a skilled gunfighter. Another strong performance comes courtesy of Taissa Farmiga who makes the most of her supporting role. The rest of the cast is somewhat uneven. Travolta is…well…Travolta. He chews scenery with gusto always verging on overacting. James Ransone turns in a rather one-note portrayal of the bad guy.
A bonus is the dog, who is a great actor!
-Behind the Scenes of In a Valley of Violence