Tarantino’s love of chapter headings and extreme violence has cast a long shadow and Dutch director Martin Koolhoven shares his love of both in his fifth film, ‘Brimstone’ and the film gets progressively darker as each chapter progresses.
Set in the old West it has Guy Pearce as The Reverend a clearly unhinged and far from benevolent man of the cloth addressing his congregation. Split into four chapters the first has him casting a disdainful eye over a woman going into labour in his church as a mute midwife Liz (Dakota Fanning ) assists her giving birth. All does not go well and Liz & The Reverend turn out to have a history between them as the film rewinds to its next chapter, Exodus. It all gets very Old Testament with the next chapter entitled Genesis and the last, Retribution. From this second chapter onwards it all becomes somewhat queasy to watch and right from the start it grows ever more uncomfortable and occasionally unsavoury to watch. The chapters get ever more grim with scenes of unflinching violence, incest, misogyny and underage sex which at times are both brutal and graphic.
The plot reveals more and more of Liz and The Reverend’s back story and it’s a compelling story if you can get past the grim subject matter but it’s as much about the great performances. Guy Pearce, whose days in Neighbours are a lifetime away, is superbly menacing in his role as the Reverend because this like nothing you’ve ever seen him in. With his long swept back greasy hair, dead eyed and scar faced, he is truly a vision of hell of which, as the story unfolds, he appears to be a living manifestation. Matching him is Dakota Fanning, who, much like Pearce, appears to be making a conscious decision to distance herself from her teen friendly roles in The Twilight saga, Charlotte’s Web & The Cat in the Hat. She too is good in a role which initially has her as a mute until the story layers peel back to reveal why – and it’s not an easy view. Rounding out the cast is Emilia Jones as the daughter who is exceptionally good in an extremely difficult, and what must have been a frankly traumatic, role to play in certain scenes.
At times this plays like an epic and even more dark and twisted version of ‘Night of the Hunter’ meets Clint Eastwood’s, ‘High Plains Drifter’ and if you’ve got the stomach for it is worth a view.
Here’s the trailer…….