The Dead Don’t Hurt – REVIEW

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The Dead Don't Hurt - Viggo Mortensen's second film as director

That the film opens with the death of lead character Vivienne (Vicky Krieps) indicates that that this is not going to end well certainly not when its title is The Dead Don’t Hurt. Coming from actor Viggo Mortensen now helming his second film as writer-director this is a sombre western and whose central theme of race, class and women in society is still relevant today.

Vivienne is a French Canadian woman wooed by a wealthy yet crass aristocrat but repulsed by his attitude she instead finds herself drawn to Danish carpenter Holger (Viggo Mortensen) both are strangers in a foreign land which partly draws them to each other. They set up home in his secluded frontier land house which she turns into a home and in turn he reciprocates by planting a garden for her. But their time together is shortened when he signs up to the Union to fight in the country’s civil war. So with Holger absent for much of the films second act the film focuses on Vivienne’s life alone in the Nevada town that is run by corrupt officials that have already overseen an innocent man hanged. The unholy trinity sees an avaricious Mayor (the always excellent Danny Huston), a crooked land baron Albert Jeffries (Garret Dillahunt) and his brutal, law flouting draft dodging bully of a son Weston (Solly McCleod) running the town for their own ends. Combined the three can easily be seen as antecedents to a recent former President.

It’s while Holger is away that Vivienne takes a job at the town saloon in order to make ends meet and it is there that she comes to the attention of Weston and his libido and he later brutally assaults her when she is home alone, the results of which Holger will return home to find.

The Dead Don’t Hurt is about far more than its surface story and builds towards an inevitably violent and tragic end. The cast are perfect with Mortensen’s role one that Clint Eastwood would have played back in his younger days and Krieps continues to prove herself as a great actress.  It is something of a slow burn in what is a classic Western and its running time could have been tighter but there is plenty here to admire and ruminate on.

related feature : Nicolas Cage’s first time in a western – ‘The Old Way’ reviewed here

related feature : Tom Connolly talks about his new true story film, ”Love, Courage and the Battle of Bushy Run’

Here’s The Dead Don’t Hurt trailer……

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