Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of making my own 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.


Week Seventy Three: The Dark Valley

I’ve been curious about this one for a long time since it has consistently been a recommended title for my film Blood Country on Amazon Prime. Finally, I got around to checking it out the other night.

Visually, this film is a feast. Every shot is amazing to look at and the production team maintained a consistent tone in their style for the film that is dark but not overbearing. I loved the color of this work, perfectly suited for the material.

Unfortunately, the narrative does not do the moving pictures justice. What should have been a bare bones revenge story has to take on a needless backstory with complicated connections. The use of narration feels unnecessary. It’s neither prominent enough to really matter or sparse enough to not be distracting. We know the protagonist is her long lost brother from the very beginning so there’s zero suspense in any reveal the film seems to hold from us till after halfway through.

The action is well-shot and blocked but becomes tedious in the last quarter of the film, one that runs far too long. I grew tired of the repeated interactions between the hero and villains, wishing for Charles Bronson-like simplicity to the conflict. When a rock song randomly comes on the soundtrack, the film lost a lot of its natural grit. What a poor decision.

In one final criticism, it’s a shame this movie, like the German-made Gold I recently watched, is dubbed. The voice acting is pretty awful at times, especially from Riley who delivers a great performance with his cold demeanor and sharp features. I must believe that seeing this film in its original language would make a big difference.

Seen on Amazon Prime.