A Civil War veteran returns home to the quiet countryside, only to find himself embroiled in a conflict between his family and the brutish cattle rancher harassing them.
After fighting in the Civil War, Wade (James Badge Dale) decides to make his way back home to Texas so that he can visit with his brother-in-law Seamus (Ethan Embry) and his nephew Samuel (Owen Teague) and niece Abigail (Maika Monroe). Times have been hard on them since their mother, and Wade’s sister, passed away but the kids are overjoyed to see their favorite Uncle. Seamus, however, is a little more restrained, having convinced himself over the years that Wade had died in the war. As Wade slowly gets back to normal life, he discovers that a neighboring family, the McCluskeys, headed by their brutish father Randolph (William Forsythe), have been stealing food from his family’s traps and he confronts Seamus about it. When he tells him to leave well enough alone, Wade takes it upon himself to sort the issue out, once and for all.
Director Kane Senes tells a story as old as time, feuding neighbors have been around since the dawn of man and here, he tells his story not just from one character’s perspective, but from all of them. Naturally, Wade is the film’s protagonist so most of what we see comes from his viewpoint but every so often, each of the other characters are permitted to share their outlook and the film improves as a direct result. The story is evocative of the Hatfields and McCoys, complete with young lovers from each family, secretly intertwined in each others arms and while the overall pace may be too sluggish for some, I actually found it worked correspondingly. This is not a savage shoot-’em-up western, it is a character study of what life was like in a more simpler time. Suffice to say, just because it was a simpler time does not mean that everything in the world was copacetic.
On the contrary, Wade suffers from PTSD and wakes up covered in sweat every night, reliving the bloody battles he fought in. Seamus tries to live by the bible and be a good Christian man and father to his children, preferring to forgive his neighbor for their transgressions, rather than turn to violence but when Wade forces him to realize that his family is suffering by virtue of the fact that he is doing nothing about it, Wade decides to take on the ‘man of the house’ moniker, something he feels his sister would have wanted him to do and having fought bigger and more savage conflicts during the war, he lunges headfirst, once more, into battle. The movie examines each individual’s attitude and behavior toward each other during a time when faith and hope were being pushed to their limits and while the film’s resolve, while not exactly unexpected, is fitting, it left me wanting more.
Available on DVD and VOD July 7th
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