Ti West has repeatedly demonstrated himself capable of a certain kind of virtuosic genre craft, enough at least for it to seem like he could one day be a formidable filmmaker—that is, if he could ever come up with material worth actually expending his creative energies on. In a Valley of Violence, finally, has a genuinely interesting concept: It’s a gruff western infused with the strain of a PTSD narrative, and all the heavier questions of conscience that come with it. But suddenly, West finds himself lacking the formal chops to do anything with it. It could be that the director’s horror facility just doesn’t port over so well to the western, but it seems more likely that the muted nature of the violence and action that crop up throughout In a Valley of Violence is actually a reflection of the morally-burdened, ex-Union soldier (Ethan Hawke) at its center. And that is interesting, but it also doesn’t make for an especially engaging form for an old west thriller.
Published as part of BAMcinemaFest 2016.