"We killed every man, we killed every child, we killed every goddamn dog! And we rode all the women, and when they couldn't ride no more, we killed them!"

Set in Glory, Texas and the Mexican border - The Last Rites of Ransom Pride is a rather dull action Western. The story deals with prostitute Juliette Flowers (Lizzie Caplan) and her quest to claim the body of her murdered lover, the titular scoundrel Ransom Pride (Scott Speedman). However, the body is being held by Bruja (Cote de Pablo) a mysterious, disfigured leader of a town in Mexico with an axe to grind against Ransom. So, Flowers proposes a deal - she will bring Ransom's younger living brother, Champ (Jon Foster) and trade him for Ransom. Champ's father, Preacher (Dwight Yoakam) doesn't take this lying down - and sends bounty hunters after them. Each side gathers a somewhat bizarre motley crew, and the movie cues up the gunfights.

It sounds like a reasonably cool springboard for a plot. It could be, in the right hands. The cast of extended cameos are excellent, Kris Kristofferson as chief baddie, Peter Dinklage as a dual-doublebarrel wielding, and somewhat philosophical Dwarf. The cast acquit themselves nicely with the anorexic material, especially Caplan - obvious leading lady material. The characters and the story are thinly sketched, with precious little meat on their bones, the scripting is perfunctory - although it boasts a few nice one-liners and visual gags (3D Porn - What will they think of next...? Oh, wait). It interleaves the quest with a series of black and white flashback scenes, leading to a rather steamy - if lacking in skin - sex scene.

Technically, the film is good, the costume and set designs are sparse but effective - leading to a Deadwood-lite funky feel and a slick, well-realised pulp comic-book style, which is only partially ruined by a barrel of cinematographic and editorial tricks in an attempt to manufacture a raw and edgy energy. It doesn't quite work that way. First up is the strange and brief recaps, where each scene is summarised into a handful of its constituent frames, and blasted back at the audience. It's akin to writing using exclamation points for every sentence. It's tiresome, and not particularly clever.

Many off details - not limited to anachronistic petrol-powered vehicles and a semiautomatic pistol that looks decidedly modern, poorly staged action sequences and messy plotting stack up against the film. The stop-start repetitive road-movie feel and insipid script will likely consign this to the inhospitable direct to video market than as the cult favourite as was doubtlessly intended.

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April 2014

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