In this age of filmmaking retrograde, substantial lengths of celluloid are devoted to the lazy re-hashing of successful formulae and gratuitous remakes. Unfortunately this is not confined to action films or romcoms, as Seraphim Falls, a western, follows suit, employing similarly derivative tricks.
Stealing more than a few of The Outlaw Josey Wales’ plot tricks – executed with the glaring absence of the Eastwood panache – and borrowing the old burnt-homestead motive (first ignited with real impact under John Wayne’s nose in The Searchers), this is the time-honoured outlaw pursuit story: two men with a score to settle, get plumb, mad-dog mean before a long overdue showdown. Gideon (a grizzly Pierce Brosnan) is being pursued relentlessly by Liam Neeson’s Confederate officer Carver in full-blown Captain Ahab-mode, driven to revenge past the point of reason; and there’s barely much more to it than that.
The film’s attention to detail is noticeably lackadaisical, and there’s nowhere near enough rip-roaring spaghetti western bravado to forgive the odd slip-up. Its experimentation with surrealism is similarly flat, with a bizarre metaphysical-come-scriptural subtext that is at best ambitious, and at worst unintelligible.
In comparison to last year’s The Proposition, a modern western distilling 70 years’ worth of gun-slinging down to its very best elements, Seraphim Falls looks like just another standard genre flick, in which the tumbleweed moves quicker than the narrative. (Lindsay West)
General release from Fri 24 Aug.