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Monday, December 26, 2016

'In a Valley of Violence' DVD/BD Old Style Western with Modern Sensibility

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The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment December 27, 2016 Digital HD/DVD/Blu-ray release of the 2016 western "In a Valley of Violence" shows that they can make 'em like they used to. "Valley" additionally offers further proof that folks who initially reject westerns despite never seeing one do not know what they are missing.

Part of what folks who pass on this one miss is seeing the beautiful scenery and great cinematography in Blu-ray. The gushing blood also looks way cool.

Speaking from the perspective of the recently converted, westerns are much more than shoot-outs and stampedes. One need look no further than the classics "High Noon" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" to see that many of these films merely use the Old West as an apt setting for morality plays and other substantive stories.

Ethan Hawke stars as Paul (a.k.a. the man with no last name). His drifting across the Southwest of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era brings him to Denton, Texas. A escalating confrontation with town bully Gilly soon after Paul arrives shows the latter why the locals dub their community the nickname that provides the film its name.

Paul leaving Gilly with a pride that has wounds comparable to the inflicted physical damage prompts our hero essentially to ride off into the sunset. The problem is that Gilly does not know enough to quit when he is behind and foolishly assembles his 19th-century entourage to pursue Paul.

A second confrontation in the desert between Gilly and Paul ends with Gilly ahead and Paul with a sense that Denton also earns the description of a town without mercy. The problem this time is that Gilly leaves Paul without anything else to lose.

The third player in this is the local lawman, played by predictably horribly miscast urban cowboy John Travolta. This character literally and figuratively is Marshal in the middle. His personal and professional relationships with Gilly impose a duty to protect and support him, and a duty to maintain law and order require not allowing Paul to exact frontier justice. At the same time, the Marshal acknowledges that Paul is justified in all his acts.

These conflicting loyalties are a staple of film and television drama. The innocent bystander finds himself or herself having to either support a bonehead move by an inner-circle member or do the right thing.

Another piece of this puzzle is the troubled past of Paul. The Marshal generally figures this out pretty quickly, but determining the reason for that young man going west requires the reveals that follow.

The final scenes in which Paul goes after those who directly done him wrong are textbook western. The kills become increasingly difficult until Paul and Gilly have their inevitable showdown on the dusty street while the locals cower inside.

This is where things start take twists that reflect our modern dystopia but are too interesting to spoil beyond this. Justice is served but not in the manner that is typical for this genre, and no one rides off into the sunset while "The End" appears on the screen.

The Blu-ray extra is a behind-the-scenes feature.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Valley" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.