Volume 76, Number 1 | May 24 - 30, 2006


Koch on Film

“Down in the Valley” (-)
I was attracted to this film because it stars Ed Norton and by Stephen Holden’s comments in his New York Times review. He wrote that the film “would like nothing less than to be seen as the ultimate deconstruction of the Hollywood western and of the cowboy archetype, lost in the wasteland of the New West. Reckless and smart, it juggles nostalgia (lyrical echoes of “Red River,” “My Darling Clementine” and “Shane”)…”

But the movie is preposterous and boring. Norton is capable of interesting performances, but this script provided no joy, insight or involvement on my part. The story involves an unhappy family living in a small California town near the ocean and their harmful reactions to one another. The family consists of the father, Wade (David Morse), an adolescent daughter acting out sexually, Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood), and a younger brother, Lonnie (Rory Culkin), who is frightened of his father and friendless except for his sister.

Harlan (Edward Norton) comes to town soon to be on a white horse that he borrows without the permission of its owner, Charlie (Bruce Dern). Harlan reminded me of Alan Ladd in “Shane” that great movie of yesteryear. But Harlan is crazy, and the effects of his apparent sweet nature and the ultimate revelation of his madness are what this movie is all about. I suspect it is a metaphor, but for what?

The film just doesn’t come together. When I saw it on a Friday night, the theater was only half full, so I assume the word is out to stay away and not to get involved.

“Dead Man’s Shoes” (-)
The Daily News gave this film three stars, and Laura Kern, in her New York Times review wrote, “With its raw, grainy texture and forceful sense of urgency, Shane Meadows’s unsparing revenge thriller “Dead Man’s Shoes” is reminiscent of a kind of film prominent in the 1970’s, most notably Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs.”

Comparing this film to “Straw Dogs” is a great overstatement. It does contain lots of violence and blood, but it is a one-trick pony, and the violence was not enough to engross me.

The story, which contains lots of flashbacks, takes place in England. The mentally ill brother of Richard (Paddy Considine) was harassed and tortured by a gang of neighborhood bullies with too much time on their hands. Years later, Richard returns home from the Army and revenges the death of his brother.

If I didn’t like this film, I don’t think you will either. Why? ecause I like revenge movies that display lots of violence — I loved “Straw Dogs” — but “Dead Man’s Shoes” is not a memorable film.

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