16-year-old Jay Cavendish travels from Scotland to Colorado in hot pursuit of the object of his affections after she had to flee the country in haste when her father had accidentally killed a local aristocratic landowner. It’s the 1880’s and the naïve young Scot is totally unprepared for the rough Wild West and all the danger he encounters, but fortunately for him he is rescued by Silas a rugged frontiersman who agrees to help shepherd and protect the young man for a small fee until he finds his precious Rose.
What Jay doesn’t realize is that Silas has an ulterior motive that he doesn’t reveal to his new charge that he too is looking for Rose and her father as there is a price on both of their heads. He hopes that Jay will lead him there quicker than all the other bounty hunters out to cash in on rewards offered for the two fugitives from the law. However even Silas cannot protect them from an attack when they get caught in the cross-fire when a desperate immigrant and his wife hold up the general store to feed their starving children in one of the many scenes of bloody violence that pervade this story.
Written and directed by Scottish musician turned filmmaker John MacLean, this debut feature of a hybrid western is a coming-of-age tale, a romance and a thriller too. Right from the start, it is fairly obvious that this is not going to end happily. ‘There’s much more to life than just survival,’ Jay tells Silas at one point to which he replies. ‘Yeah, there’s dying.’ When they finally catch up with their quarry in the midst of the plains there is a lengthy savage shoot-out between them and the gang of thuggish gun-slinging hunters. Even with its excessive bloodshed that seems almost unending at times, it is an impressive spellbinding beautifully staged finale to this intriguing wee film.
Starring a scrawny looking Kodi Smit-McPhee who caused such a stir with his breakthrough performance in ‘The Road’ and who is now equally splendid as the determined young Jay. Alongside him is an intimidating Michael Fassbinder as Silas, a man of few words, but big on action
Credit also too the rather spectacular photography that turned the New Zealand stand-in-location into such a dramatic vista that really made the terrain so untamed and stunningly foreboding. It helped it pick up a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.