×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sweetwater

Filmmaking twins Logan and Noah Miller rehash vulgar revenge-fantasy tropes in their hollow neo-Western "Sweetwater."

With:
Sarah -- January Jones
Prophet Josiah -- Jason Isaacs
Sheriff Jackson -- Ed Harris

When Tarantino takes B-movie fodder and supercharges it with style, the results sizzle with illicit fun. But when filmmaking twins Logan and Noah Miller attempt the same thing, rehashing vulgar revenge-fantasy tropes in their hollow neo-Western “Sweetwater,” the schlock hits the fan. Peeved that a local religious zealot murdered her Mexican husband, an ex-prostitute grabs her guns and serves up retribution in a purple dress — a reversal on the sincere and decidedly less sensational promise of the Millers’ semi-autobiographical debut, “Touching Home.” Once again, though, by allying themselves with name actors, the brothers have ensured at least a modest release.

Boasting a script ripe with overwrought, pseudo-“Deadwood” dialogue, “Sweetwater” provides three roles enticing enough to have attracted thesps deserving of better material. Spewing nonsensical fire and brimstone over the opening stretch, Jason Isaacs plays the self-appointed prophet Josiah, a man who freely takes what he wants and invents vaguely biblical-sounding sermons to justify his hypocrisy. Lately, what he wants is Sarah (January Jones), a red-headed beauty out of place in the unforgiving New Mexico territory, trying to forget her rough bordello upbringing and reinvent herself as a pioneer wife. Rounding out the tense, three-way dynamic is Sheriff Jackson (Ed Harris), a lawman with a bowler hat and long, Old Testament hair dispatched to investigate two well-connected men who disappeared somewhere on Josiah’s land.

It’s no mystery what happened to the missing men (played by the Millers, well-disguised behind scraggly beards and rotted teeth): The film plainly shows them both being shot for sport by Josiah in the opening minutes, and it’s soon clear that the pernicious cult leader trumps what little law exists in the town. But the pic never explains why he holds such power, and it flies against the wisdom of Westerns that a man of God, however power-hungry, would find himself at the top of the frontier food chain.

Even so, Josiah has amassed a small cult of followers who attend church services (and offer their women for decidedly un-Christian bedroom duty) in what looks like a big barn surrounded by giant white crucifixes. This is clearly not the West as it ever existed in history, but rather a blank canvas on which the pic intends to create a new cadre of archetypes. Instead, it despoils the authentic New Mexico landscapes with unbelievable characters and patently contrived situations.

Incidents are clearly headed toward a three-way showdown, where none of the parties qualifies as pure. Sarah may have the least to answer for her past, having suffered the murder of her husband (Eduardo Noriega), the harassment of the townsfolk and a gratuitous miscarriage, which the Millers tastelessly exploit for a few less-than-mythic beauty-shots of her grieving against the sunset. Still, the scenes serve to return the ex-prostitute back to a place from which she has nothing to lose.

By rendering everyone in “Sweetwater” guilty of some crime or other, the film is free to set Sarah loose upon her tormentors. Thirty years ago, drive-in auds would have greedily devoured the ensuing carnage, cheering as Sarah baits Josiah’s henchmen by bathing topless before shooting them dead. The Millers endeavor to portray these sophomoric altercations as artfully as possible, but fancy-sounding dialogue and handsome widescreen lensing goes only so far to disguise the shallowness of the underlying material.

While some may call this a strong female role, and a certain straining for respect suits Sarah’s situation, Jones still feels trapped by the pre-feminist notions that confine her on “Mad Men.” Harris, who doubles as producer, puts a jester-like spin on the sheriff. The thesp previously starred in the Millers’ debut, about which they wrote a book describing their uncanny ability to convince professionals to support their vision. After “Sweetwater,” they have more explaining to do.

Sweetwater

Production: A Raindance Entertainment, Mythic Intl. Entertainment, Atlas Intl., Arc Entertainment presentation of a Kickstart production. (International sales: Preferred Content, Los Angeles.) Produced by Jason Netter, Logan Miller, Noah Miller, Trevor Drinkwater. Executive producers, Ed Harris, Tucker Moore, Stephen K. Bannon, Rick Benattar, Andrew Curtis, Jonathan English, Philipp Menz, Stefan Menz, Glenn Kendrick Ackerman. Directed by Logan Miller. Screenplay, Miller, Noah Miller.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Brad Shield; editor, Robert Dalva; music, Martin Davich; production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski; set decorator, Wilhelm Pfau; costume designer, Hala Bahmet; sound, Rodney Gurule, Jay Collins; re-recording mixer, Mark Berger; special effects coordinator, Scott Hastings; visual effects producers, Andrew Hanges, Josh Prikryl; visual effects supervisors, Peter Vazquez, Laurel Klick; visual effects, Keep Me Posted, Hot and Sour Animation and Effects; stunt coordinators, Al Goto, Laurence Chavez; assistant directors, Kaaren Ochoa, Chemen A. Ochoa; line producer, Brendan Garst; casting, Jeanne McCarthy. Reviewed at WME Screening Room, Beverly Hills, Jan. 15, 2013. (In Sundance Film Festival - Premieres.) Running time: 94 MIN.

With: Sarah -- January Jones
Prophet Josiah -- Jason Isaacs
Sheriff Jackson -- Ed HarrisWith: Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Root, Jason Aldean, Vic Browder, Luce Rains, Dylan Kenin, Keith Meriweather.

More Film

  • CGV movie theatre Seoul South KoreaCGV

    Korean Law To Limit Film Releasing Monopolies

    The Korean government is to make it illegal to show a single film on more than 50% of screens nationwide. The move is intended to prevent “screen monopolies by blockbuster films” and to “address unfair competition practices in the film industry.” The Ministry of Culture announced on Monday that it will revise the existing Promotion [...]

  • Jason Flemyng, Casting Director Lucinda Syson

    Jason Flemyng, Lucinda Syson Launch Film and TV Indie The Kernel Factory (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jason Flemyng, fellow actor Ben Starr, casting director Lucinda Syson, and finance expert Cristiano D’Urso are opening The Kernel Factory, a new U.K.-based film and TV indie. Flemyng has a long list of movie credits including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” and Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking [...]

  • Hache

    ‘Hache’ Creator, Director Discuss Netflix’s Next Spanish Original, Dropping Nov. 1

    MADRID — On Nov 1 Netflix will drop its fifth Spanish original series, 1960’s-set drug smuggling drama “Hache,” produced by Madrid’s Weekend Studio for the platform. Created by Verónica Fernández and directed by Jorge Torregrossa (“La vida inesperada,” “Cocaine Coast,” “Velvet Collection”), “Hache” tells the story of Helena (Adriana Ugarte), a prostitute who ends up [...]

  • Argentina Film Lab

    Argentina to Build Country’s First Film Restoration Laboratory in Buenos Aires

    Argentina’s Instituto Nacional de Cinematografia y las Artes Audiovisuals (INCAA) and the Ministry of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires will partner to build Argentina’s first laboratory of film preservation. Minister of Culture Enrique Avogadro and INCAA president Ralph Haiek signed the agreement which will see Buenos Aires’ Pablo Ducrós Hicken Film Museum in [...]

  • The-Ancient-Law

    Lumière Festival’s MIFC Broadens International Spotlight with Focus on Germany

    The 7th Lumière Film Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) is expanding its international scope this year with more foreign companies than ever before taking part in the event, high-profile guests and an examination of Germany’s heritage cinema sector. With 17 international firms from 25 countries at the event, the MIFC has reported a 20% [...]

  • US actor Donald Sutherland poses for

    Donald Sutherland Reflects in Lyon On A Life And Career Marked By Cinema

    In a loose and free-flowing on-stage interview held at the Lumière Festival this past Sunday, Donald Sutherland reflected on his decade-spanning career with a tone that mixed personal irreverence alongside genuine veneration for the art form that brought him this far. “I love filmmakers, I really do,” said the Canadian actor, who delighted the local [...]

  • Lucky Day

    Film Review: 'Lucky Day'

    It’s been 17 long years since “Rules of Attraction” director Roger Avary has released a film, during which time he was involved in a deadly car crash, charged with gross vehicle manslaughter, saw a work furlough translated into actual prison time, and watched things go south with Video Archives amigo Quentin Tarantino over the “Pulp [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content