Rated R for violence, sexual content, language and some drug use.
Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Dwight Yoakam, Scott Speedman, Jon Foster, Kris Kristofferson
Written by: Ray Wylie Hubbard/Tiller Russell
Directed by: Tiller Russell
If anything, I admire the attempt Tiller Russell made with The Last Rites of Ransom Pride; it attempts a unique visual style and take on the tired Western genre. However at a scant 80 minutes, what could have been an interesting movie turns into something that is just all style and no substance that gives you little reason to care about what you just saw both during and after you watch it.
Lizzie Caplan stars as Juliette Flowers, an outlaw in early 20th century Texas who is trying to bring the body of her lover Ransom Pride (Scott Speedman) home from Mexico for a proper burial. In order to do this, she has made a deal with the body’s captive Bruja (Cote de Pablo): Juliette will bring Pride’s brother Champ (Jon Foster) to Mexico and kill him in exchange for the body. As Juliette and the unknowing Champ head out to Mexico, Reverend Pride (Dwight Yoakam), Ransom and Champ’s father, sends a pair of bounty hunters (Jason Priestley and W. Earl Brown) to kill Juliette and bring both of his sons back themselves.
A damn good cast was assembled for The Last Rites of Ransom Pride and they do what they can with the limited material given to them. Lizzy Caplan, complete with a pretty good Southern accent, is serviceable in the lead role, showing range that I had not seen in her previous work (admittedly, I’ve only seen her in comedies and Cloverfield). Jason Priestley, unrecognizable in a mountain man beard, is good as the dim witted (and super horny) bounty hunter John. Dwight Yoakam does his usual schtick here, but the man is a damn good actor and his schtick is good enough to get by.
While having a good cast is integral to a movie’s success, it can be depressing when a movie wastes its talent and The Last Rites of Ransom Pride will have you reaching for tissues for this very reason. The movie is Jonah Hex short and that leaves for little to no time for character development. Although the actors I’ve listed above were good, their roles (save for Caplan and Yoakam) are very limited. The two bounty hunters have little side scenes where they talk about random topics and never really accomplish anything. Peter Dinklage and Kris Kristofferson are also in the film, but do not do anything of value or worth; the time I’ve just devoted to mentioning them here is the amount of time the movie devoted to their characters and as I’m a huge Dinklage fan, that was hugely depressing; his whole arc as The Dwarf just feels edged in as padding to the whole story, where he’s part of a freak show with conjoined twins…or something. Doesn’t matter, really.
Scott Speedman, as the slain outlaw Ransom Pride, is only seen in flashbacks and the relationship between her and Juliette, which is supposed to make you believe that she would go to great lengths to get his body, is never fully fleshed out. They have one scene together, and while they are kissing and acting like they dig each other, that wasn’t enough for me to believe that she would honor her dead lover’s wishes. It especially became unbelievable at the end of the movie (which I won’t spoil), but it throws out the whole point of her motivation and kind of kills the whole movie.
And although I respect Russell’s attempt at a unique visual style, it actually hinders the movie somewhat. It’s very jumpy, shots of skulls and spiders will just get thrown in really quick for no reason, and for some reason he also decided to add a quick “Cliff Notes” transition between scenes when there was a major battle or event. After a battle, there will be three quick scenes of what you just saw, and that almost made me shut the movie off; it’s one thing to do this once, but this happens a lot and since the movie is so short, I couldn’t help but think this was just more padding to make the run-time longer than it needed to be. I would’ve preferred some story or character development, personally.
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride has some okay ideas and decent performances, but on the whole it just feels positively empty. There’s no character development, a good chunk of the characters in the movie turn out to have no point in being there, and by the end, you just don’t care what happened. Mix that in with a visual style that borders from okay to absolutely irritating, and you’ve got a movie that just isn’t worth watching unless you’re morbidly curious and honestly have nothing better to do. I’m all for a fresh take on the Western genre, but this isn’t the way to go.