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  Sweetwater Hi, Plains Drifter
Year: 2013
Director: Logan Miller
Stars: Ed Harris, January Jones, Jason Isaacs, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Root, Jason Aldean, Vic Browder, Luce Rains, Dylan Kenin, Keith Meriweather, Noah Miller, J.B. Tuttle, Chad Brummett, Logan Miller, Kevin Wiggins, Kathy Lamkin, Amy Madigan
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the late nineteenth century and out in New Mexico a couple of newlyweds are trying to make it as farmers on a plot of land. The wife is Sarah Ramirez (January Jones), a former prostitute who has done something considered more scandalous than having sex for money, that is being a white woman who has married a Mexican, Miguel (Eduardo Noriega), so it's little wonder they wish to avoid society and live out their days with one another quietly on the farm. However, they are not the only ones out there who own land, for their immediate neighbour is Prophet Josiah (Jason Isaacs), a preacher with a very particular business method...

Westerns were still few and far between in the twenty-first century, but there were a small, redoubtable number being made, and one low budget indie with a better than average cast was Sweetwater, also known as Sweet Vengeance in some territories. It was the brainchild of twin brothers, Logan Miller, who directed, and Noah Miller, who scripted with him; they both took acting roles here too, as the two "trespassers" Prophet Josiah murders in return for slaughtering one of his sheep to eat when they were starving, travelling to meet the character played by Ed Harris, Sheriff Jackson. He renders this a kind of detective story as he seeks to solution to what happened to the brothers.

But then again, this was a revenge yarn as well, because of what Josiah does to Miguel. After they have an encounter over the problem of the preacher's sheep and goats eating Miguel's crops, this is all the excuse the supposed holy man needs to kill the farmer in cold blood, and for the rest of the movie Sarah does her best to work out what has happened to her husband, not that a lot of working out is necessary since it's fairly obvious who the culprit is, though without a body and the local Sheriff no help whatsoever, a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do and take matters into her own hands. As if losing her spouse wasn't bad enough, Sarah loses her pregnancy as well in a miscarriage thanks to the trauma, another strong reason to get her own back.

The trouble with this was not so much the acting, although some had issues with Jones' typical ice queen persona it was perfectly apt for the character she was playing, but that there were really no surprises. This could have been the fault of the genre, as by this stage any Western was going to have to play with certain tropes and clichés unless they had the money to splash out on some out of the ordinary setpiece or mash-up of individual styles, though even that was no guarantee of success, artistic or financial. Therefore plenty of Sweetwater had a familiar hue to it, which was acceptable if you wanted precisely to know what you were being offered, but not so great if originality was your main reason for watching - there was very little of that here.

That said, the Logans worked up a few quirks and idiosyncrasies to raise a welcome laugh or two, mainly from Harris's lawman who has his highly personal manner of behaving, mainly because he has the law on his side so can act how he pleases, much to the hypocritical Prophet Josiah's chagrin. Harris was evidently enjoying himself and that sense of amusement was infectious, a neat contrast to the more sober Sarah's plotline, making for an interesting trio of personalities, with Isaacs setting about the villain role with relish, the evil preacher character being a cliché in itself, but well-approached in this case. As it turned out, on limited release the film slipped through the cracks but for one aspect, Jones's topless scene which might have been a cynical attempt of garnering publicity, but worked as far as that went. Seeing as how that took up mere seconds of a ninety-minute running time, you would be better watching this as a Western fan, if indeed you were, because that's who Sweetwater appeared to have been made for. Music by Martin Davich.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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