I don't often admit this, but I'm a native of West Texas. That mostly horrifies me, but there are some pretty standard Texan things that are lodged in my DNA that I can't pretend not to enjoy. I've already outed myself as a lifelong wrestling fan, I drop a "y'all" in conversation fairly frequently in spite of every attempt to stamp it out, and I'm a lover of the Old West in film. Sure, these aren't qualities that are strictly Texan, but they're definitely common identifiers.
From , , and the incomparable 's rough-hewn, beautifully violent Spaghetti Westerns, 's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, to 's gritty The Outlaw Josey Wales, some of the most captivating and beloved experiences in cinema are Westerns. There's something exciting about the idea of tough-as-nails men striking out into the wilds of the frontier, packing heat and always ready for a fight. While there were plenty of anti-heroes, and reluctant bad guys like Eastwood's William Munny in Unforgiven, or Sebastian Carrasco in 's fantastic The Forgotten Pistolero, some of the most fun to be had watching a Western was watching the starkly good and bad gunslingers face off.
In 1953's Shane, plays the overtly villainous Jack Wilson with evil glee, while 's Chris Adams is the selfless white knight in The Magnificent Seven.
In short, Westerns are a perfect mix of drama, action, and good ol' fashioned storytelling set in one of the most exciting periods in American history, and if you aren't up to date on the past, present, and future of what the genre has to offer, this piece will be pleasantly informative.
Below are three Westerns, past, present, and future, that you should see if you get the opportunity. If you're already a dyed-in-the-wool fan, you're probably already sold. If you're new to cowboys, lawmen and dusty frontier towns, I hope to welcome you to the fold.PAST: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
's American Western classic is by far, one of my favorite films in any genre. 's Butch and 's Sundance aren't even anti-heroes, they're straight up crooks, stealing and robbing as leaders of the Hole in Wall Gang. This is immaterial, however, as you can't help but root for their every crooked endeavor. When Butch and Sundance escape to South America after a particularly ballsy train robbery, you hope they've managed to get away with their crimes and settle down to a life of peace and prosperity. While much of the film is lighthearted and a hell of a lot of fun, you're repeatedly reminded that you're watching a hard-nosed Western, and this rings no truer than in the final scene. Check out this not particularly serious scene for a taste of what Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has to offer.PRESENT: Good for Nothing (2011)
Color me slightly biased, but I had the opportunity to meet the writing/directing/acting/producing duo of Inge Rademeyer and Mike Wallis when they made their feature film debut at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and they're excellent people. That noted, I initially had a difficult time getting around the subject matter of Good for Nothing. What tilted the scales in favor of this wholly unique take on the Western genre? Well...the before mentioned uniqueness. Imagine a protagonist that's not a protagonist at all; that is, in fact, pretty despicable in every conceivable way. Imagine still, that in a twisted sort of way, you have to root for the guy, because he's the only one standing between our budding heroine (Rademeyer, as Isabella), and a bunch of equally nasty dudes. It's a strange screenplay that Wallis wrote, one that liberally mixes comic beats with brutal, unblinking deaths.
What's equally unique about the film is its location. In the vein of the Spaghetti Western, Wallis and Rademeyer filmed their movie on a tight budget (what would have been a down payment on their first home) on the beautiful South Island of New Zealand, that admirably mimics the frontier terrain of the American Southwest.
Check out the trailer below, prominently featuring the bad guy himself, "The Man" (Cohen Holloway), and if you want to see Good for Nothing in full (and you totally should), you can watch it now on Netflix.FUTURE: A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand (2014)
(The Borgias, Appaloosa, Die Hard: With a Vengeance), (The Thin Red Line, Warrior, Gangster Squad), and (Magnolia, Dark Country, The Punisher), all in a gritty, down-and-dirty Western in the tradition of Sergio Leone, , and John Ford? Yes, please. Written and soon to be directed by Jane, I've been excited about this film since hearing Thomas talk about it at the 2012 Comic-Con. Give 'er a listen and tell me you aren't excited about the prospects of this being an epic Western for 2014.
With films like The Lone Ranger kicking off 2013, fans of gunfights, locomotive battles, and horses pounding across the rugged plains have plenty to be excited about. Just remember, while you're looking to the future for the next big cowboy epic, there are plenty of amazing films in the vast history of the Western genre to keep your attention.