Six Reasons Why
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Opening with a series of tight, lingering closeups, the Canadian western SIX REASONS WHY (2008) looks like a Sergio Leone homage before it's even a minute old. The faces aren't quite as grizzled or intriguing as those in Leone's films, though, and they don't hold our interest nearly as much, which is true for the rest of this low-budget effort as well. Slow-moving and only sporadically entertaining, it's more like a bowl of Ramen noodles than a plate of spaghetti.
The story takes place in the Badlands, where the paths of five men will cross with a bloody gunfight eventually deciding who's left standing. The Nomad (Dan Wooster) is doomed to wander the desert keeping strangers away from an isolated town whose inhabitants wish to maintain its "purity." When he finally dies, his mystical spotted horse will return to the town and a new guardian will be chosen. Thus, the Nomad begins to hatch a plan in which he'll fake his own death and fool the horse. No, I didn't just make that up.
He encounters two men, The Entrepreneur (Christopher Harrison) and The Sherpa (Mads Koudal)--all the main characters have "The" names--who are on the trail of an assassin who gunned down The Entrepreneur's Father, a famous monorail tycoon. (I was going to say "dental floss tycoon", but the moment passed.) During the night the assassin, or rather The Criminal (co-director and writer Jeff Campagna), steals The Nomad's horse--which is actually billed as The Horse in the closing credits--ultimately leading to a stand-off involving all five men with The Criminal holding the horse at gunpoint, for reasons which become clear during the surprise ending.
This film is dedicated to Clint Eastwood, and Jeff and Matthew Campagna make no effort to hide their Eastwood-Leone influences here. The graphics and music of the opening titles are directly cribbed from THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, as are many of the film's shots, while ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is also well represented. One character drapes his pancho over one shoulder to expose his pistol; another man, after being shot in the arm, sits up and buttons his jacket over it to form a makeshift sling; men face each other poised to draw, with extreme closeups, eyes darting from side to side, and hands creeping toward holstered guns; and we get multiple slow zooms in and out of tense faces as time stands still and various flashbacks play themselves out.
Like most imitations, this one pales in comparison to the originals. It's as though the Campagnas watched a bunch of spaghetti westerns, called their friends over, grabbed a camera, and went outside to play cowboy. Dan Wooster mumbles in his lowest voice and tries his best to look mysterious. Jeff Campagna's main acting technique is to spit long, arching trails of tobacco juice in various ways. Koudal and Harrison give the best performances, but nobody's in any real danger of injuring themselves here. For some marquee value, the Campagnas managed to secure the services of Colm Feore (PEARL HARBOR, "24") for some brief scenes as The Preacher, who originally banishes The Nomad to the desert.
Time creeps by during some of the slower scenes. It's one thing to watch guys like Eastwood, Bronson, and Van Cleef take forever to say or do something, but these actors don't exactly maintain that level of interest. Some of the exchanges are kinda fun:
THE NOMAD: "You boys should've...packed a little bit more for this trip, don't you think?"
THE SHERPA: "We didn't think the journey would be so hard. There's nothing to eat out here at all."
THE NOMAD:"Well...I can see where the name 'badlands' might've thrown you."
--while others leave something to be desired:
THE NOMAD: "Your fly's down."
THE CRIMINAL: "I like the breeze. Interesting horse you've got there...you ride bareback?"
THE NOMAD: "Nope."
Nice outdoor locations and some authentic-looking interiors enhance the production. I don't think I'm giving much away to reveal that the story takes place in some kind of post-apocalyptic era, since the first AA battery makes its appearance early on when The Nomad pops it into his "tune box" for some campfire music. A Korean sushi-saloon sports a radio complete with undulating screensaver-style visualizations, and of course there's that monorail. One character is billed as The Zeppelin Scout although we don't get to see any zeppelins, darn it.
I didn't actively dislike SIX REASONS WHY but there's really not much here to recommend. As an homage, it offers substantially less than the films it pays tribute to so there's no reason not to just watch one of them instead. Still, it often looks good, has a pretty cool soundtrack, and ends with a nice twist that I didn't see coming. And you have to give the Campagnas credit for trying something different than most of the usual indy fare. I think they'll do much better in the future if they give us something more original, instead of a weak imitation of a vastly superior class of films.
Added: Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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