Paul (Ethan Hawke) just wants to get to Mexico, but that will prove easier said than done as he rides through the desert landscape of the Southern states and happens upon a figure in the middle distance, waving and calling to attract his attention. Reluctantly, and noticing the man (Burn Gorman) is dressed in priest's garb, he rides over, his trusty hound at his side, and listens to the unfortunate's speech as he describes his problem with his mule which has stopped moving thanks to thirst. Paul has cocked his rifle, and with good reason as the holy man demonstrates himself to be nothing of the sort and pulls a gun on him, demanding his horse; easy to deal with as Paul simply sets his dog on him. But up ahead is a small town that will be more of an obstacle...
Westerns enjoyed a resurgence in the twenty-first century, not a huge one it had to be said but many an indie filmmaker, recalling the style from seeing it on television growing up decided they would be a good match for the genre. Though some big budget efforts made it to the multiplexes, interested audiences were more likely to see something like In a Valley of Violence, where fairly big stars would let their hair down and get all dusty with their Stetsons firmly in place, all for the sake of playing cowboys and getting paid for the privilege. Here Ti West, a name more usually associated with horror pictures, indulged his interest in the European Westerns of the sixties and seventies, complete with appropriately animated title sequence.
That said, though West would presumably be keen to espouse his love of Sergio Leone and his cohorts, there was a lot distinctly American about this, in fact what it most resembled was a B-movie effort: you could envisage this going out as the support to the same year's remake of The Magnificent Seven (which coincidentally also featured Hawke) had that practice continued into 2016. This was by no means as lavishly mounted as that blockbuster, and that's why it looked like a second feature, with its sets that would have been used time and again for other, similar works and a plotline familiar enough not to be alienating to the average fan of the form, since that sense of the familiar was important to sustaining the entertainment value between its examples.
The prolific Hawke was once again bolstering a lower budget production in between larger budget assignments, perhaps because the market for the middle ground was eroding, hence all those indie directors who had one interesting film, often a debut, then graduated to a massive project full of special effects and bankable stars. If West was interested in making one of those, he hadn't made it before In a Valley of Violence, and if he was stuck in a ghetto of his own design he wasn't complaining, part of that band of brothers and sisters who showed up in each other's movies and operated behind the scenes - it was no surprise to see Larry Fessenden appearing as one of the bad guys here, this was that sort of film. The equivalent of the B-movie by this point was the internet streaming distribution, and that's where this quickly ended up.
It had cinematic and disc releases too, but you would expect most audiences to catch this from their movie subscription service, unless they nicked it from a download site. It certainly had the kind of vibe that you would get from relaxing in front of it on a quiet weekend afternoon, even if there was a development halfway through that would have dog lovers up in arms, as presumably was the intention, Paul treats his pooch as his best friend after all, chatting away to it more than the other characters in the film. This was another dead end town yarn, the mine has failed and now the Marshal (a morally ambiguous John Travolta) is trying to keep the place together, in spite of anyone sensible being chased off by his obnoxious, pugnacious son (James Ransone). Aside from three deputies, the only other persons of interest were sisters Taissa Farmiga (obviously too young to play Hawke's love interest, though they do get affectionate under pressure) and Karen Gillan (sporting a grey tooth and the cheerleader to her hubby, the Marshal's son). It was a small enough cast for a TV episode of a vintage series, and aside from the trademark brutality in West's oeuvre it might have made for a decent one. Don't have high expectations and you'd find this perfectly acceptable. Music by Jeff Grace.