"Dwight Yoakam, accomplished country/western singer, loves movies. He has appeared, as an actor, in over a dozen films. On this film, Yoakam functioned as writer, co-producer [with Buck Owens], director, star, and of course, he worked on the musical score as well. This would be quite a feat for the most accomplished of movie stars, which Mr. Yoakam is not. He can be very effective as an actor, when directed properly, as in "Sling Blade" and "Panic Room". He is a better actor than Johnny Cash was, or Merle Haggard; certainly as good as the icon known as Willie Nelson. This film is so bad, it is almost good. It is so different, so off-center, so oblique, that it challenges the audience. The cinematography, by James Glennon, is lush; images bathed in dust and golden light, drenced in blood-red sunsets and shimmering mirage riders, ghost-like apparitions. I think it is admirable that Yoakam had enought influence, enough money, enough good friends, and enough ego to launch this dark confused tale. But, alas, it does not emerge as eclectic as Jim Jarmusch's mini-classic,"Dead Man". We all love a western, and Yoakam can be applauded for purposefully breaking down many of the cliches of the genre. Next time though, sir, please procure blanks for your handguns that do not sound like cap pistols. The movie has been called self-indulgent, and it is; tedious, even egregious. Actually, what it is remains closer to a labor of love falling leagues short of coherence. It was poorly written. Without strongly defined characters, clear conflicts, and fully-realized conclusions, we struggle as viewers. At times, the film becomes too esoteric; like Dennis Hopper's "The Last Movie", one suspects the cast had fun doing it, but where's the fun in watching it ? No one wants a film to fail. We search for those tiny nanoseconds that elevate, entertain, and enlighten us. The movie is populated by bizarre characters portrayed by a bevy of terrific actors. Yoakam, as U.S.Marshall, Val Casey, is at ease in front of the camera; but Val comes off as shallow posturing. Where is the anger, inner strength, and passion ?
Several times in the semblence of a plot it is mentioned that an official government letter exists, and in it is the information that Valentine Casey was deceased; that he had died in Cuba in the Spanish-American war. When confronted with this conundrum, Val just stares wistfully toward the horizon. So, as an undercurrent, we wonder if Val is really an avenging spirit, or if the whole movie represents a nightmarish dream ? Joe Unger, as the outlaw Nogales, makes a strong impression, finding a real person within the absurdity of the script. Billy Bob Thornton, Peter Fonda, Matt Clark, and Bo Hopkins, sleepwalk through their brief scenes, lending their visage and names to the project. Bridget Fonda, as Adelyne, is credible, considering her character is written incoherently. The Henry Clan are the heavies. They are led by Luke Askew, astride a primitive wheel chair, spouted biblical platitudes, manning a machine gun mounted on his wagon, and finding time to bugger his daughter. Vince Vaughn cuts a wide swath as Taylor Henry, the most lethel of the bunch; killing without remorse, ice-blooded and stone-faced. Comic relief is provided with the bawdy flavor of Shakespeare; down, dirty, and bloody. Bud Cort is dipped in [foul stuff], stripped, humiliated, beaten, and shot. Paul Reubens, as Arvid Henry, seethes like a [unique] gunslinger, bouncing about like a Marx brother; murdering, [abusing], stealing,... Michael Jeter, as the uncle, gets to whine, beg, howl, cajole, and [be abused],... Terry McIlvain, as Val's sidekick, U.S.Christmas, is costumed in a colorful skirt, like a South American gaucho, and he makes the most out of his screen time....this one could become a cult classic."
Like a bad dream that doesn't feel any better after waking.
M. Fantino | San Francisco, California USA | 10/09/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"What a strange movie. It took exactly one hour and twenty minutes for anything to happen. Until then, its pace was that of a Tree Sloth, only less deliberate. This western has an all-star cast, though. The always-wonderful Billy Bob Thorton plays an ever so elegant, overly-eloquent Doc Holiday type, though he shuffles off before any real action takes place. Paul Reubens plays a convincing surprisingly handsome misfit. Dwight Yoakam plays a funny looking guy much in need of a hat. Peter Fonda shows up, then dies. Bridget Fonda shows up, administers an impressive and devastating blow to the groin of one of the bad guys, from which he never rightly recovers. And Vince Vaughn plays a mean, sombero-wearing sonnamabitch. There is even a deputy who wears a dress, though, you never really care enough to find out why he does such a thing. They all take turns waiting for something to happen, they talk before the one hour and twenty minute fun part, but what they said didn't really matter. Just a bunch of names that were hard to remember. I counted no less than four highly inappropriate love scenes, that seemed as passionate and timely as any set of grandparents one can think of. There are a whole slew of unimportant characters, some live and some die. Some of these characters are sporadically consumed with a dizzying range of emotion that I couldn't understand. One of which is a deaf girl whom you cannot help but envy, for she doesn't have to bare the burden of the dull sonorific confusion. It seems Dwight Yoakams, who also directed this feature, main goal was to shoot and kill every actor who was more suited to his craft. Jealousy runs rampant among thespians. I give it two stars because of the star-studded cast, they were fun to watch even though they sort of went down with the ship, except for Billy Bob Thorton, who didn't die, and left, presumably to make a better movie. I think the only way they were able to pay for these expensive actors was to not pay a decent editor, who could have successfully trimmed this film down to a slim country music video."
Did I Miss Something?
TheHighlander | Richfield, PA United States | 07/24/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Did I miss something in this movie? Like maybe the plot. I like Bridget Fonda and I like westerns but this movie did not have much in it to like. It seemed like an entire movie that didn't ket anywhere. It never progressed. With the vast array of well known names and faces this movie should have had a better plot. I guess the big question for me is how did they get all these character actors in this movie? If you like westerns or not, you may want to think about passing on this movie."
What a mess!!!
J. Preston | FAIRBORN, OH United States | 08/22/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"As a film director, Dwight Yoakam is a great musician!
Let me say, that I'm a huge fan of Yoakam and his music. He is one of the all time greats. I've enjoyed his acting as well in films like "Sling Blade" "Panic Room", etc. "South of Heaven, West of Hell" is, on the other hand, virtually unwatchable. I mean, it's THAT bad.
I decided to watch it mostly out of curiosity. Well curiosity killed the cat and this movie almost did me in! It was painful to watch. I'm not sure what happened, but this film could not have been much worse.
Let's hope Dwight stays in front of the camera, where he does pretty well.
Check out his new record "Blame the vain". It's GREAT.
Glenn A. Buttkus | 08/28/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I am reasonably intelligent and open minded (which some reviews claim are pre-requisites for enjoying this film) and I still have to give this a 1 star. Admittedly I rented this video because I am a big fan of DY's music and I do see what he was trying to go with this project. However, the constant barrage of swearing, pointless violence and slow dialog turned me off. Not sure why those elements seem to be required to make a film "artsy", but to each his own I guess."