The Ballad of Lefty Brown

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I’ve got good news and bad news about a couple of movies opening this weekend. They were the two best movies I saw at the San Diego International Film Festival last year. The bad news — Entanglement is opening in a number of cities, but not San Diego. You can see it On Demand and Digital HD.

The good news — you can see The Ballad of Lefty Brown. It was a western I liked even more than Hostiles (it makes sense that Hostiles would get more attention, as it stars A-lister Christian Bale).

Writer/director Jared Moshe (who gave us the Civil War film Dead Man’s Burden) really does an incredible job of avoiding some of the tropes you usually get in westerns, and gives us an old coot we can adore. That’s because he’s not sipping out of a flask and ranting incoherently. He’s just not the sharpest tool in the shed. Bill Pullman, usually a sidekick on screen, gets the lead; although he starts out as the sidekick.

This is one of those rare times where I’m not going to say much about the plot, because it would spoil things. I’ll tell you that Peter Fonda plays Sheriff Edward Johnson in the late 1800’s in Montana. His wife is the steely Sarah (Kathy Baker), and one of his old gunslingin’ buddies, Jimmy Bierce (Jim Caviezel) is running for office. Always intriguing character actor Tommy Flanagan, plays Tom Harrah, who’s on the wagon and has a heart of gold. He realizes Lefty often gets in over his head and is willing to try to help him out of jams.

Diego Josef plays Jeremiah, a guy that will remind you of the young kid in Unforgiven. He’s obsessed with novels of the old west, and is eager to help Lefty in his quest to find some horse thieves.

As you watch this film, you slowly get engrossed in Lefty’s determination for justice, even when he and Jeremiah are continuously out gunned. What helps make you enjoy the ride is that Lefty could’ve easily been a goofy caricature of a doofus. You slowly start to think — I’d like this guy to have my back.

The film is shot nicely. The score works. The actors are all terrific. And it has a surprising amount of depth for a western.

3 ½ stars out of 5.

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