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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Slow West

July 7th, 2015

Slow West - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Video on Demand

Slow West

Slow West opened in two theaters, but it quickly fell apart when it tried to expand. This is disappointing, as its reviews are more than 90% positive. Is this film aimed too much at critics? Or will it find an audience on the home market?

The Movie

The movie stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jay Cavendish, whom we first learn about in a voiceover. Jay is a 16-year old from Scotland who traveled to the western United States to find the woman he loved, Rose.

After the opening credits, Jay finds himself in Colorado territory riding through a burnt out Native American village and then spotting a Native American running from three soldiers trying to kill him. One of the men questions if he is White or not, while the other two chase down their prey. However, the soldier is interrupted by Silas Selleck, who points his gun at the soldier's head. Jay tries to intervene with his own gun, but its not loaded. After Silas kills the soldier, and loots the body, he offers to help Jay get to where he's going... for a price. (It's $50, which is probably a lot back in 1870s, but honestly I don't know how much.)

While traveling, Jay tries to talk to Silas. He asks him why he's going west, but gets no response. He tells Silas that Rose fled Scotland with her father and Silas thinks that Jay should have taken the hint. Silas is not much into conversations. That's good, because what he has to say isn't good news for Jay. It turns out Rose and her Father have bounties on their heads, $2,000 Dead or Alive. Worse still, Silas is one of the men looking to collect. He's not the only one, on the other hand. The film is mostly the journey Jay and Silas make, with ample flashbacks to Scotland with Jay and Rose in simpler times. The details are spoilers, of sorts, so I will end the plot summary there.

My first thought when watching Slow West was how similar it was to Dead Man. Both films deal with people in the West, who are not really fit for the area. Both films have the leads helped by a more competent guide. Both films have these two followed by bounty hunters. And both films have deliberate pacing. There are other similarities, but those are deep into spoiler territory. Much of the plot of the two films feels like unconnected vignettes about life in the West. On the other hand, Dead Man was definitely a style over substance film, while Slow West was more grounded. That's not to say it is 100% realistic, but certainly more grounded than Dead Man was. There's another thing both films have in common and that's high quality.

Slow West boasts great performances from Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, and Caren Pistorius, among others. While the plot admittedly moves slowly, it is very engaging. You get to know these characters enough that are you want to know how their stories will end, even though there are plenty of hints that they will end poorly. The film also looks gorgeous. Really, my only complaint is the pacing, but that's a minor issue compared to all of the strengths.

The Extras

There's not much in the way of extras. There is a seven-minute long making of featurette and two deleted scenes with a total running time of nine minutes. Then again, this was a limited release, so having fewer extras is not unexpected.

As for the technical presentation, I have very few complaints. The film looks fantastic. I don't know what it is about nature that makes high definition shine, but it does so again here. There are some nighttime scenes that lack the clarity, but overall it looks great. The audio is solid with very clear dialogue, plus enough effects and ambient sounds throughout to be engaging.

The Blu-ray costs just $15, which is $3 or 25% higher than the DVD. That's a better deal than most similar releases.

The Verdict

Slow West isn't a fast-paced movie, but the acting and story will draw you in. There are not enough extras on the DVD or Blu-ray to be a contender for Pick of the Week, but it is still worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Slow West, Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Caren Pistorius