Every once in a while Hollywood accidentally does something great on purpose.
It’s basically cowboys versus cannibals with the sensibility of a Cormac McCarthy film. The basic plot of a townswoman kidnapped and dragged back to the cave of the wild west CHUDS doesn’t do this thing justice. The meat of the film is the story of four civilized men who step up to the plate to fight for civilization and push back against the ravenous hordes. To do so, they must set aside petty differences, lift up the weaker members of their little posse, and trust to good sense, gunpowder, and cold steel. It is as much a film about a band of brothers and the lengths to which one man will go to save a good woman as it is about the brutality of life on the margins of civilization.
It moves slow, builds up the menace, and finishes with one hell of a brutal climactic fight scene. It is gory and heroic and reminded me of the writings of David J. West in all the best ways. The gritty realism of the cowboys elevates the threat of the giant savage antagonists, and a subtle and ephemeral music score add to the menace. Punctuated by violence, it is not really an action movie – one of the big fights occurs entirely off screen – so settle in for a slow burn, and you won’t be disappointed.
The director, S. Craig Zahler, also directed the near miss, Brawl in Cellblock 99 (reviewed here). He really elevated his game to bring this low budget masterpiece to screen. Filmed for less than two million, it is a testament to how poorly budget correlates with quality. A few good friends have been singing the praises of his other major film, Dragged Across Pavement, and that title has moved considerably upward in my queue.
Just need to find a night where the kids are in bed and I’ve still got enough energy to get through it. A rare treat these days.