×
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

  • 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Weaves Inclusive

    The Secret Power of 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Is Inclusion

    In a year that gave us films like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” this weekend’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” delivers one more home run for underrepresented groups in media in 2018. An animated film that takes advantage of Sony’s piece of the Marvel pie, “Spider-Verse” not only puts a mixed-race, middle-class teenager in the [...]

  • Jeff BridgesJeff Bridges, who stars in

    Jeff Bridges to Receive Cecil B. DeMille Award at 2019 Golden Globes

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced that Jeff Bridges will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 76th Golden Globes on Jan. 6, 2019. Bridges has starred in films like “The Big Lebowski,” “Crazy Heart,” “True Grit,” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” More Reviews Film Review: 'Nona' Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' “The [...]

  • Charlotte Rampling Euphoria

    Berlin Film Festival: Charlotte Rampling to Receive Honorary Golden Bear

    Oscar-nominated actress Charlotte Rampling, whose career has spanned more than 100 film and television roles, will be honored with a special Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. The fest will also pay homage to Rampling by screening a selection of her work, including Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict” (1982), Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool” (2003) [...]

  • The Sisters Brothers

    France's Lumieres Awards Unveil Nominations

    Jacques Audiard’s “The Sisters Brothers” has been nominated for best film and director at the 24th Lumieres Awards, France’s equivalent of the Golden Globes. The Western starring Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Jake Gyllenhaal world-premiered at Venice Film Festival, where it earned Audiard a best director award. More Reviews Film Review: 'Nona' Tallinn Film [...]

  • CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We

    CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We Pictures

    Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed with We Pictures, the production and distribution company founded by Hong Kong-born director and producer Peter Chan Ho-sun. It aims to boost the company’s footprint both in China and abroad. Within China, CAA China will help We Pictures to develop new business partnerships and find new sources of investment [...]

  • Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Receive

    'Carol' Producers Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Be Honored by BAFTA

    Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, the producers of such films as “Carol,” “Their Finest” and the recent “Colette” starring Keira Knightley, will receive the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award at the BAFTA Film Awards. The prolific pair run Number 9 Films and have a long list of credits. They will pick up their accolade at [...]

  • BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

    Korea Box Office: 'Rhapsody' Reclaims Top Spot, Beats ‘Spider-Verse’

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” reclaimed top place at the South Korean box office, overtaking “Default,” after spending two weekends in second place. The Fox release earned $4.38 million from 554,000 admissions for a total of $61.0 million from 7.94 million admissions. In its seventh weekend of release “Rhapsody” accounted for 27% of the weekend box office. CJ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content