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Roy Thompson, a drifter cowboy from the old west, happens upon a small town, looking for a 'genteel lady' to accompany him on his excellent adventure. Problem is, the guy's a bit of a nutjob, and ends up killing a few people in the process of finding said lady. A group of town locals take exception to Roy's behaviour, and each decide to pull a Clint Eastwood and take the law into their own hands regarding Roy. I know what you're thinkin', punk. Does this premise make any sense? Well, to tell you the truth, no.
Ben Solenberger been building a name for himself for the last little while. From starting out with doing uncredited spots in M:I 3 and XXX 2, to starting his own production company (Cacchiotti Productions) and firing out a couple of films (the most recent one, THE LIFE I LIVED, recently snagging a distribution deal). With COWBOY KILLER (which he executive produced), Solenberger is hoping to put his company on the map. Well, perhaps if COWBOY KILLER were marketed as a comedy.
Have you ever seen a film that tries so hard, it ends up being something it's not? That's what it felt like here. A horror movie trying hard to be horror, only coming out looking like a bad comedy. Almost everyone in the film comes off with really awkward deliveries, lacking emotion, and making it feel like they just learned their lines that morning. It really is the antithesis of serious dialogue. It's not all the actors' faults, in this case. The script is rife with bad lines, characters you could care less about, and lame attempts at establishing tension between the characters through racist overtones. Really, the latter felt thrown in at the last minute because someone forgot to do it from the start.
Another thing the film needed: proper editing. At first it's not exactly clear how crazy Roy is until after the fact. While he hallucinates that his first victim is enjoying his dismembering of her corpse, the way the scene is is cut doesn't make any sense. It seriously comes off as comedic (the later hallucination scenes play out much better). Add to that characters knowing information they logically shouldn't have known (unless they're clairvoyant), and characters saying/doing things they logically shouldn't say/do. Probably the first thing that should've hit the cutting room floor were the instances of intended comedy, which were more annoying than funny (the cable guys and the hicks).
But not everything about COWBOY KILLER is a total waste. The fact that the Cacchiotti Productions crew managed to get a variety of shooting locations is a plus, especially for an indie film (filming inside a hospital, for one). Again, it's comical at times (in a so-bad-it's-good sort of way), even though some scenes meant to be 'funny' go over like a fart in front of your girlfriend/boyfriend. And the various gore effects, though simplistic, are nicely executed.
Like many indie flicks, this one needed more time in the editing room, making sure that the tone of each scene matches what was intended, and that each actor maintain a believable performance. It's a step in the development of a film career, though, so you can't really knock it too hard. I say 'A' for the effort, 'C' on the execution.
Video: Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the image experiences quite a bit of interlacing (though it might be my screener copy). It also has a lot of red to it, which is especially apparent when it comes to fleshtones. Some of the darker areas swallow a lot of the detail, especially in the indoor scenes. Overall, the film has a unique look to it, but still has an ugly low-budget feel.
Audio: A simple Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track that is concentrated at the centre speaker. No directional effects, whereas stock sounds are easily picked out. It does it's job, and nothing more.
Surprisingly, this screener disc has a couple of extras to it, starting with (even more surprising) an audio commentary with director Jason Baustin, executive producer Ben Solenberger, director of photography Jason Simmons, writer Jaymes Camery and photographer Adam Simmons. Unfortunately, the track is hard to hear, whether due to the group being 5 feet away from the mic or someone set the volume too low. Regardless, the group does drop some trivia points, poke fun at the performances or goofing off (like eating a sandwich). There are lapses of silence in the track, but honestly, this is more fun than the actual movie!
Next is a Blooper Reel, which consists of folks blowing lines and laughing more than anything else. Not as funny as the commentary, but some of the screw-ups do elicit a few chuckles.
Finally, the film's trailer is included, which unfortunately looks to have too much dialogue shoehorned into it for it's own good. Going a mile a minute without a breath is a good way to pass out, which is what it felt like the trailer was going to do. Again, more time spent in the editing room, guys.
The old adage of a film being made in editing pretty much sums up what didn't go right for this one. COWBOY KILLER obviously slipped out of the editing room when no one was looking. It's an easier watch with the commentary provided, but that shouldn't be an excuse for a film that needs to be whipped into shape.
True, it's a stepping stone made by a group just starting out in the business, so I'll give them that. Give it a spin, and hope that the next one by Solenberger and crew shows improvement. Lessons learned, guys!