SXSW Film Review: ‘Paradox’

Daryl Hannah and Neil Young join forces for a hazy-lazy Western pastiche.

Daryl Hannah
Neil Young, Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson, Willie Nelson, Corey McCormick, Anthony LoGerfo, Tato Melgar, Charris Ford, Dulcie Clarkson Ford.

Think of it as a piece of anti-nostalgia. “Paradox,” a waste of time made bearable only by its brevity, plays like a bad acid flashback from the 1970s, a time when similarly self-conscious trippy pastiches of rock music and genre conventions proliferated on the midnight-movie circuit. Think of “Zachariah” or “Rainbow Bridge,” no matter how hard you’ve tried to forget them, and you’ll have some idea what awaits you here. And if you’ve never seen those films, well, consider yourself fortunate. You might do well to keep your lucky streak going.

“Paradox” bills Daryl Hannah as its “auteur” (seriously, that’s just what it says in the closing credits) but it appears her chief contribution to this enervating oddity was shouting “Action!” or “Cut!” at appropriate moments. There is little sign that she offered direction, or even polite suggestions, to a cowboy-costumed cast that includes iconic rocker Neil Young as the aptly named Man in the Black Hat; fellow musicians Lukas and Micah Nelson (accomplished-in-their-own-right sons of Willie Nelson) as, respectively, Jail Time and the Particle Kid; a few other members Lukas’ band Promise of the Real; and Willie Nelson himself (fleetingly) as an aged desperado.

More than a third of the movie is given over to interminable vamping and what-the-hell anachronisms as these “actors” eat, curse, philosophize, defecate — behind the doors of an outhouse, thankfully — and generally behave more like musicians enjoying downtime than Wild West outlaws lying low at an abandoned stagecoach station. (Before you ask: Yes, there are indications of herbal consumption.) A sampling of the hazy-lazy dialogue: “Anarchy rules!” “That’s an oxymoron!” “What did you call me?” And, mind you, that is one of the funnier exchanges.

Cinematographer Adam CK Vollick deserves credit for a few clever visual quotes from westerns by Sergio Leone and other masters. And every so often Hannah and her players hint at an underlying back-to-nature theme, as Young and Willie Nelson rob a seed bank (presumably to plant a sustainable crop of some kind), and Micah Nelson — whose attire suggests a Wild West cyberpunk — uncovers artifacts from a now-extinct, technologically advanced society (or something like that). But that is not nearly enough to distract you from stealing frequent and increasingly desperate glances at your watch.

Eventually, Young and Promise of the Real get around to performing a set of new and classic songs — most notably, an extended version of Young’s mournful “Pocahontas” — in what looks like a revival meeting tent. The makeshift concert (which, truth to tell, is the only excuse for this film’s existence) is more than passably entertaining, especially if you’re a longtime Young fan, but it would be much easier to enjoy if Hannah or Young or whoever hadn’t dreamed up the conceit of bandmates needing to tether themselves to the ground before being lifted skyward (raptured?) by the music.

Viewers might require comparable restraint to make it to the end of “Paradox” when it begins streaming March 23 on Netflix.

Popular on Variety

SXSW Film Review: 'Paradox'

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Headliners), March 15, 2018. Running time: 73 MIN.

Production: A Netflix release and presentation of a Shakey Pictures production. Producers: Bernard Shakey, Elliott Rabinowitz.

Crew: Director, writer: Daryl Hannah. Camera (color): Adam CK Vollick. Editor: Paul Snyder. Music: Neil Young, Promise of the Real.

With: Neil Young, Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson, Willie Nelson, Corey McCormick, Anthony LoGerfo, Tato Melgar, Charris Ford, Dulcie Clarkson Ford.

More Film

  • Our Mothers Review

    Oscars: Belgium Sends Cannes Prizewinner 'Our Mothers' to International Feature Film Race

    Belgian Guatemalan director Cesar Diaz’s feature debut “Our Mothers” will represent Belgium in the International Feature Film category at the Oscars. Represented in international markets by Pyramide, “Our Mothers” world premiered at Cannes’s Critics Week and won the Golden Camera for best first film. “Our Mothers” is set in today’s Guatemala, a country riveted on [...]

  • La vaca "The Cow"

    Alfredo Castro, Mia Maestro, Leonor Varela Cast in Francisca Alegria’s Debut (EXCLUSIVE)

    SANTIAGO, Chile  —  The much anticipated feature debut of Chilean Francisca Alegria, renowned for her magical short “And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye,” has firmed up its cast and shooting dates. Argentine thesp Mia Maestro (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”), Chile’s Leonor Varela (“Dallas,” “Blade 2”), Alfredo Castro (“From Afar,” “Museum”) [...]

  • 210819 Distribusjonsseminar DNF

    Haugesund: Nordic Distribution Panel Analyzes Recent Success Story 'Queen of Hearts'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  On Wednesday morning, shortly before this year’s New Nordic Films Works in Progress screening was due to begin, a handful of industry veterans sat for a panel that picked up right where last year’s WIP program left off. Presented in collaboration with Europa Distribution, the panel – called “The Value Chain: A [...]

  • L-R Dena Kaplan, Ronny Chieng, Josh

    Rafe Spall Leads Cast of Oscar Nominated Josh Lawson's 'Long Story Short'

    Rafe Spall, whose credits include “The Big Short” and “Shaun of the Dead,” leads the cast of romantic comedy “Long Story Short.” Studiocanal will handle worldwide sales on the film, which starts to shoot on Monday in Sydney, Australia. The movie is written and directed by Josh Lawson, who was Oscar nominated last year for [...]

  • Metro 2033

    Cult Sci-Fi Novel 'Metro 2033' to Be Adapted as Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

    Russia’s TNT-Premier Studios Company, TV-3 Channel and Central Partnership Film Company – all part of Gazprom Media – have come together to produce a movie based on Dmitry Glukhovsky’s sci-fi novel “Metro 2033,” which has also been adapted as a video game. Filming is due to start next year. The Russian premiere of the movie [...]

  • Beforeigners

    'Beforeigners'' Anne Bjornstad on HBO's First Norwegian Original Series

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  HBO Europe’s first Norwegian original series, which debuted Aug. 21 exclusively across HBO’s territories, has garnered rave reviews in the Norwegian press. It is also a perfect fit for HBO’s brand and goal to create bold, smart and author-driven shows. Produced by Endemol Shine’s Norwegian prodco Rubicon TV, “Beforeigners” is helmed by [...]

  • Refugees from the besieged Muslim enclave

    Sarajevo’s True Stories Market: Documenting the Atrocities of War

    Reconciliation and dealing with the tragedies of the Yugoslav Wars has been a major focus of the Sarajevo Film Festival and its CineLink Industry Days event in recent years. The True Stories Market, launched in 2016, aims to connect filmmakers with organizations that are researching and documenting the Yugoslav Wars that spanned 1991 to 2001 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content