London Film Festival: Edgy, entertaining western from Kristian Levring, starring Mads Mikkelsen
The Good, the Bad and... the Danish? Dogme signatory Kristian Levring has crafted a gripping and stylish revenge western with a decidedly dark bent, taking standard genre staples and imbuing them with a suitably Scandinavian sensibility to enormously entertaining effect.
Set in 1871, the film stars Mads Mikkelsen as Jon, a Danish ex-pat and former soldier who has spent the past seven years in America, hoping to build a life for his family. However, when his wife (Nanna Øland Fabricius) and young son (Toke Lars Bjarke) are brutally murdered shortly after their arrival, Jon exacts violent and bloody vengeance on the men responsible, which puts him on a collision course with vicious land baron Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the brother of his wife's killer. With Delarue making good on his threat to kill innocent citizens unless his brother's murderer is handed over, Jon is forced to take matters into his own hands, though he finds an unexpected ally in his victim's widow (Eva Green), a scarred mute whose tongue was cut out by Indians.
Mikkelsen is on typically terrific form as Jon and Morgan is moustache-twirlingly despicable as Delarue, while Green adds to her ever-increasing gallery of glamorous grotesques and steals the film without uttering a single line of dialogue. In addition, the script is intriguingly edgy and Levring peoples the town with colourful supporting characters, such as Jonathan Pryce's mayor-slash-undertaker and Douglas Henshall's priest-slash-sheriff.
Levring's direction impresses throughout, especially his ability to shoot around some of the more gruesome moments; one reveal in particular is nothing short of inspired. In addition, he shows a strong affinity for western conventions and clearly knows his way around a shoot-out, delivering a superbly orchestrated and genuinely thrilling finale. This is a well made, passionately acted western that hands over plenty of bang for your fistful of dollars.
Screening on Tue 14, Wed 15 and Fri 17 as part of the London Film Festival 2014. General release 13 Feb 2015.