Sneak Peek: In a Valley of Violence
A mysterious drifter named Paul (Ethan Hawke) and his dog Abbie (Jumpy) make their way towards Mexico through the barren desert of the old west. In an attempt to shorten their journey they cut through the center of a large valley – landing themselves in the forgotten town of Denton – a place now dubbed by locals as a “valley of violence.” The once popular mining town is nearly abandoned, and controlled by a brash group of misfits and nitwits – chief among them, the seemingly untouchable, Gilly (James Ransone) who is the troublemaking son of the town’s unforgiving Marshal (John Travolta).
As tensions rise between Paul and Gilly, Denton’s remaining residents bear witness to an inevitable act of violence that starts a disastrous chain reaction, infecting the petty lives of all involved and quickly drags the whole town into the bloody crosshairs of revenge. Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga) and Ellen (Karen Gillan), two bickering sisters who run the town’s only hotel, try to find the good in both men, while desperately searching for their own salvation. Only the world-weary Marshal struggles to stop the violent hysteria, but after a gruesome discovery about Paul’s past…there is no stopping the escalation.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransone with Karen Gillan and John Travolta
Directed By: Ti West
Written By: Ti West
Distributor: Focus World
This transcript has been lightly edited:
The Referee: Oh, ho, ho, listeners? We’ve got somethin’ for ya. (laughter) We’ve got somethin’ … for ya. (laughing) The Critic and I were able to catch —
The Critic: I can’t take it.
Ref: — a Sneak Peek of “In a Valley of Violence.”
Ref: And that’s coming out October 21. It’s coming out in many ways and many forms: If you wanna catch it in a theater, watch it On Demand or HD digitally, you can catch it that way. This is a movie: written, directed, edited by Ti West. (laughs)
Critic: Yes, and he wants everyone to know it. It’s at the beginning.
Ref: Everybody needs to know that Ti West did this.
Ref: It is starring some pretty familiar faces, particularly Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Karen Gillan, and, also, (laughing) Burn Gorman!
Critic: My boy. I love Burn Gorman. (laughs)
Ref: — with a bunch of other people that we’ll talk a little bit about. Now, this is not your average western, so help us out Critic.
Critic: Let me just read. This is their log line. I’m just going to read it for the folks.
Ref: All right.
Critic: “A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drags a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody crosshairs of revenge!”
Ref: All right.
Critic: Now —
Ref: All right.
Critic: Let’s back this up.
Ref: (sings) “Back it up.”
Critic: So, this mysterious stranger is Ethan Hawke’s character. He has a little doggy with him. But, watch out for that dog. I’ma tell you that. You better watch out!
Ref: She likes to bite.
Critic: He comes upon a priest!
Critic: In the desert —
Ref: An Irish priest. (laughter) Like, how? Why?
Critic: And, of course, that’s Burn Gorman. That doesn’t end well —
Critic: — for Burn Gorman. (laughs)
Ref: Not at all.
Critic: He keeps traveling, because his goal is to get into Mexico.
Ref: But, Burn warns him, though.
Critic: He does. He warns him about a little town.
Critic: And, he comes upon this town, which is also known as The Valley of Violence.
Ref: All right.
Critic: In this town, the sheriff is played by John Travolta.
Ref: The marshal.
Critic: The marshal, I’m sorry, that’s right. And his son, who’s a nitwit — I think that’s who they’re talking about (laughter) — is played by James Ransone, who was in “The Wire” and other things.
Critic: He has a problem with Ethan Hawke. Ethan Hawke doesn’t show him the respect that he thinks he deserves, so they end up having a standoff, which turns into the death of something — that’s what they’re talking about. Ethan Hawke goes, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no. It’s time to take all y’all out!” In the midst of this, John Travolta’s (laughing) trying to calm everybody down. So, the question is: Is anyone left standing at the end of this western?
Ref: Oh, no! Well, it’s important to note that Ethan Hawke’s character, Paul — his name is Paul — has a very shady, shadowy, violent background.
Ref: And, if you cross him —
Ref: — get ready to pay. And that’s exactly what happens.
Ref: Now, this all sounds like a wonderful western. It sounds like —
Ref: — a classic western that, you know: You come into a small town. You rub somebody the wrong way. There’s a standoff; there’s a shoot-off, and the dust settles at the end. You think that would be it. … But it’s not.
Critic: No. They even throw in, like you were hinting with Ethan Hawke’s character, that past, haunting him. I mean, we have all of these correct bits. But, the thing is: Is this a comedy or not? Now, they are saying that it does have absurdist humor. The problem is: It doesn’t —
Ref: Absurd is right! (laughs)
Critic: Oh, yes. There was one moment (laughter) that was absolutely hilarious.
Ref: It involves John Travolta; we’ll say that.
Critic: It sure does. And, at the end, it was absolutely hilarious. But, the thing was: After you see it, you kinda go, “Well, wait a minute, was that supposed to be funny or not?” It’s confused.
Ref: Well, here’s the thing: Let’s just break it down. Let’s talk about the performances here. We have strong performances by Burn Gorman. He knows what he’s doing.
Ref: Don’t bother him. Give him the script, and just shuffle along. Let him do what he does.
Ref: He absolutely nails it. You also have a strong performance, in my opinion, by John Travolta. He is a veteran. If you’re going to give somebody a satirical piece of western or comedy, any kind of hint towards a Quentin Tarantino kind of comedy that you’re going for: Give it to John Travolta. He’ll know what to do with it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t directed appropriately to, you know, make sure it goes through. Ethan Hawke, as the anchor of the movie: I have to say that, do I buy him as a man with an assorted past during the 1800s, whistling through a town, and has the capability of murdering people or even avenging himself? I don’t know. I don’t know. But, maybe that goes back to the direction.
Ref: But, he does do what he can to help salvage his role.
Critic: Yup. And, also, can I just shout out Toby Huss? —
Critic: — who is a wonderful character actor. He was in HBO’s “Carnivàle.”
Ref: He’s from Iowa.
Critic: He sure is. He is in “Halt and Catch Fire” now. He never has a wrong moment. Can I just say about Ethan Hawke? For me, Ethan Hawke looked the part. That surprised me. From the beginning, before he started talking, I was like, “Wow!”
Ref: The beginning was good.
Critic: The problem, for me, Ref, is the writing — the dialogue. It’s too many words. This guy — it should be like Clint Eastwood. It should be that kind of person — OK? — in a western; very few things to say. I think if that had happened for Ethan Hawke, you woulda bought it.
Critic: But, he just has so much to say that it doesn’t click. And that’s, overall, the problem: It’s too many lines in this, and it’s hard to know — like you said, is it a satire of a western, or is it a western? It’s trying to do both, or that’s how it appeared; and that really didn’t work. Also, just pick up the pace!
Critic: I mean, the ingredients are there for something entertaining, but pick up the pace. Like, get on with it!
Ref: At one point in our screening, a man was asleep. So … (laughter) He was sitting in the front row, knocked out. Could’ve had a hard day; could’ve worked late; could’ve — I don’t know. (laughter) But he was knocked out. And, I tell you what: I’m going to be honest. At some point, during the movie, I really wanted it to — let’s wrap it up.
Ref: Because, you know, westerns need to be succinct. It needs to, like you say, get that dialogue out there and get to the action.
Ref: Now, we will have to say, added on top of that: The music was great … but not for this movie! (laughs)
Critic: Right, yeah: Is it a satire or not?
Ref: It was strange. The music — at every, single point — was very serious. It had gravitas! It was, like, strings and, you know, different notes here: duh-duh-duh! All of that did not match anything in the movie. Literally, it was two separate things happening.
Ref: So, you know, overall, we’re really being nice (laughter) about this, because this is called, Why Watch That.
Critic: That’s right.
Ref: Why would you watch that? You know why I would watch this again?
Critic: I wanna know. (silence) (laughter) Stop it!
Ref: But, I will say … (laughter) But, I will say — no, in all reality — this is an attempt to be like a Quentin Tarantino.
Ref: And it didn’t quite pay off.
Ref: But, I will say this: If you wanna watch someone salvage their roles — like, meaning (laughter) — no, I mean it! If you wanna watch an actor say, “You know what? I’m going to do what I need to do, because all the ingredients aren’t working for me?”
Ref: Watch it for Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, and Burn.
Ref: That’s all I can —
Critic: And, my boy, Toby, let’s not forget him.
Ref: And Toby, yes.
Critic: I do have to say, there are female characters. Unfortunately —
Ref: Yeah. No. Sorry.
Ref: Sorry, it just didn’t work for me. But, that’s the most positive I can be.
Critic: Yeah, well, on a positive note: Again, it’s in theaters, On Demand, and Digital HD (laughter) on October 21. So, if you are still interested: On Demand … (laughing) or rental, or cable.