Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

Big Kill (Archstone, 2019)

 

Mediocre-to-fair

 

Big Kill is a Western written and directed by and also co-starring Scott Martin. It’s a good-looking picture, shot in handsome New Mexico locations, with a lot of that signature glowing light the area affords. The movie is too long (126’) and drags in parts, and it is often (deliberately) over the top, with distinct spaghetti tinges, but the picture is generally professionally done and made on classic Western plot lines.

 

 

It headlines Jason Patric, his third feature oater after being Lt Charles Gatewood in Walter Hill’s Geronimo and Jim Bowie in the 2004 The Alamo. He takes the part of the chief villain, The Preacher, who runs the once mining boomtown, now criminal center of Big Kill, AZ.

 

Evil preacher

 

There are two slightly Butch/Sundance or Smith & Jones-style pardners, Jake (Martin) and Travis (Clint Hummel). They get into scrapes wherever they go, you know the type. We first see them in Mexico when they are run out of a town, one in long johns, for stealing/womanizing, and pursued over the border by an irate Mexican general (Danny Trejo, going for an Emilio Fernandez vibe) to the accompaniment of that kind of chirpy boing-boing music that signals comedy Western or at least comic episode in Western.

 

Jake and Travis

 

Back in the US, they run into Jim Andrews (Christoph Sanders), a tenderfoot from Philadelphia out West to find his brother, a saloon owner in the (he thinks) thriving town of Big Kill, and they team up, allowing for the usual greenhorn-out-West tropes.

 

He’s the hero, really

 

In New Mexico they meet up with some old acquaintances, Bill, Sam and unknown, who tell them to keep going or else, especially because Chisum has a bounty out on them. These rough types will return to the action later on and, given the runtime, could have been better developed but we’re never quite sure who they are.

 

Anyway, the trio get to Big Kill and find it pretty well dead, not booming at all, though there’s some money around because the Easy Lady saloon does a brisk trade in the evenings. Strangely, though, no one in the Easy Lady has heard of Jim’s brother.

 

Various colorful and, Westernwise, traditional characters appear, Digger (Paul Blott), the undertaker, the easy ladies (Audrey Walters and Sarah Minnich), the very disobliging bartender Fred (Toby Bronson) and of course assorted gunmen and hired killers (one known as Stiletto, played by Stephanie Beran), most notably second-billed Lou Diamond Phillips, looking, it must be said, rather silly in an all-red outfit, as the evil Johnny Kane, who enjoys killing. These characters are all over-drawn, as it were, teetering on the edge of parody.

 

Chief gunman Lou

 

In fact many of the costumes were bizarre. The Preacher, when he appears, looks like something out of a post-apocalypse biker movie. I did, however, like the cockaded top hat of the mayor, when he appeared.

 

And The Mayor, as he is simply known (KC Clyde), turns out to be Jim’s brother. After the mines flooded and the town went bust, he supervised a shift to criminality to keep the place going, providing the useful service of disposing of rustled cattle in the town slaughterhouse.  When he learns this, young Jim becomes estranged from his bro, not approving at all.

 

Mayor Clyde with disobliging barman

 

Well, I won’t recount any more of the plot. It does go on, rather, and I don’t want to spoil the fun for you if you do watch it. It all builds up to the inevitable final clash between good guys and bad, preceded by the equally obligatory walkdown, quite well handled generally, I’d say.

 

Travis looks a bit like Michael Biehn’s Ringo in TOMBSTONE, and in fact that movie is quoted at one point

 

I may be guilty of damning Big Kill with faint praise but it does deserve some (faint) praise. You feel that Mr Martin has done his best to make a fun old-school Western, and he succeeded, up to a point.

 

 

 

 

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