In a Valley of Violence

In a Valley of Violence ★★★★

"Just because you have a pecker and a pistol that doesn't make you a man."

In a Valley of Violence is a perfect example of why film festivals exist. It is a unique blending of genres unseen before that results in a truly special film.

For the majority of the film, director Ti West gives us a stereotypical revenge Western. But often (not too much and not too little) the audience's expectations are played with and instead we are given a character or line of dialogue from something entirely different, ultimately resulting in the final act playing out like some kind of dramatic cowboy slasher flick. Breaking up the genuine tension of some of the film's biggest moments with hilariously realistic but unexpected dialogue was a stroke of writing brilliance. It required a deft touch to keep it from feeling out of place, and it never did.

The other big genre that is explored here is a relational drama. It's crazy to think about, but the most human and close relationship in the film is between a character and his dog (a dog which they should create an animal actor Oscar for). This friendship was so deep, so touching, and so honest that the audience could really feel it, and it makes the story that much more impactful because of that. Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, and James Ransone put in fantastic performances, as well.

Not many films can tug on your heartstrings, make you laugh aloud, have you cringing at a violent act, and consider philosophical questions about the motivations of the characters all at the same time. But In a Valley of Violence succeeds at this and because of that is easily one of my favorite films of 2016.

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