Down In The Valley

on May 05, 2006 by Richard Mowe
Although the creative energy and aspirations apparent in David Jacobson's third effort (after "Criminal" and "Dahmer") cannot be faulted, the result is a confused mixture of structure with nods to Western lore and the likes of John Ford and Howard Hawks. Shown in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, it drew lukewarm responses.

It's best described as a contemporary Western with Edward Norton as Harlan, doing his level best as a cowboy moseys into a small town in the San Fernando Valley and insinuates himself into a family whose head, Wade (David Morse), is the local sheriff. Being a single dad, Wade hasn't much of a clue about how to raise his rebellious teenagers, Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood) and Lonnie (Rory Culkin). Harlan soon finds himself seduced by Tobe, which naturally doesn't find favor with Wade.

We're never sure if Harlan really is seriously disturbed mentally or whether he is simply morally irresponsible as he spins tales of derring-do about his alleged past as a rancher in South Dakota. What you're supposed to believe is never entirely clear. When he commits a serious crime and then heads for the hills on horseback, taking Lonnie with him, the scene is set for a classic shoot-out which actually takes place on a Western film set complete with extras in period costumes. At this point credulity is stretched to breaking point, meaning very little can be salvaged even by actors of the caliber of Norton and Morse. Starring Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood, David Morse, Rory Culkin, John Diehl, and Bruce Dern. Directed and written by David Jacobson. Produced by Holly Wiersma, Adam Rosenfeld, Edward Norton and Sam Zazarian. A Thinkfilm release. Drama. Rated R for violence, sexual content, language and drug use. Running time: 125min

Tags: western, Edward Norton, romance, police, kidnapping, teen, mental illness, cowboy, David Morse, Evan Rachel Wood, Rory Culkin, John Diehl, Bruce Dern, David Jacobson

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