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The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017) - Movie Review

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The Ballad of Lefty Brown - Movie Review

5 stars

Imagine if Gabby Hayes hit the trail on a mission of revenge for the coldblooded murder of John Wayne?  That’s the revision to the western genre that I’d be most interested in partaking right about now and, as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what you have with the excellently realized murder folksong that is The Ballad of Lefty Brown.

I think I finally have found a use for Bill Pullman.  Left unaffected by his presidential turns in the Independence Day series and befuddled by his performance in While You Were Sleeping, the actor kicks all kinds of ass as a faithful sidekick in writer/director Jared Moshé’s rousing western The Ballad of Lefty Brown, as a 65-year-old buffoon who has to rise to the occasion when his best friend is silenced with a bullet to the head by a nefarious goon.

After riding with Eddie Johnson (Peter Fonda) for over 40 years, Lefty – despite his fierce puppy dog loyalty – is suddenly without a job as a partner on the ranch and blamed mercilessly for not having Johnson’s back.  He returns to bring Johnson’s body home, but gets blamed nonetheless for being weak and low in character.  The death wasn’t his fault; it wouldn’t have mattered who was riding with Johnson that day. 

It was a damn good shot from nowhere; two, in fact.  And it took both men by surprise, leaving one with a cowboy hat full of blood as his brains spilled out into it.  All deaths have consequences and Lefty is positive he knows who the rustler was who killed his best good friend.  And so his squinty-eyed search begins. 

Co-starring Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Tommy Flanagan, Joe Anderson, and Diego Josef, The Ballad of Lefty Brown is a lingering tale of limitations and vengeance.  It’s wisely paced and takes its time to make sure that the needs of the story (and of the audience) are met.  This is a wholly satisfying western that resonates on many levels, ranking as a career best for Pullman.

Lefty is amiable enough, even if he can’t find his ass with two hands.  He is slow to speak, a bit dim-witted, but he means well enough and, as fate would have it, pretty damn lucky to still be among the living.  He also hobbles around the plains with a severe limp and mumbles quite a bit to himself on even the best days.  He fumbles throughout the picture, knowing in his heart that he is a damned man. 

But that doesn’t stop him from doing right by his friend, even if it is a conspiracy that he uncovers in all the rock and dust.  Lefty is not the heroic type, but he lives life to the fullest and this mission, alongside the posse he's rounded up, is his salvation. 

Pullman brings a depth to the role of the sidekick that is as touching as it is comical.  The creation and performance of Lefty Brown is genius on many, many levels.  What the actor does throughout The Ballad of Lefty Brown is a certain kind of miracle.  And the actor, feeling every bit of the age his character is, pulls it off, weirdly quiet voice and all.  He’s the sidekick; not the main event and this new role he’s stumbled into is a wild one.  He’s not supposed to have his own mission.  Yet Pullman is on one, blunders and all, and pulls off a win in this performance that Hollywood is sure to notice during awards season.

Filmed throughout Montana (including Bannack State Park), The Ballad of Lefty Brown is a perfect example of why the western genre still works.   Its beauty is matched by its performances and its story.  If you’re feeling jumpy, you can catch the film exclusively on DIRECTV now.  It won’t be in theaters until December 15.

The Ballad of Lefty Brown - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language.
Runtime:
111 mins
Director
: Jared Moshe
Writer:
Jared Moshe
Cast:
Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Joseph Lee Anderson
Genre
: Western
Tagline:
The Ballad of Lefty Brown.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You were supposed to watch his back."
Theatrical Distributor:
A24
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 15, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Aging sidekick Lefty Brown (Bill Pullman) has ridden with Eddie Johnson (Peter Fonda) his entire life. But when a rustler kills Eddie, Lefty is forced from his partner’s shadow and must confront the ugly realities of frontier justice.

No details available.

The Ballad of Lefty Brown - Movie Review

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