Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Oh where has the western gone?  I guess way back in the day, three of every four flicks spit out were black and white westerns.  Then the Italians took over the genre with Sergio Leone directing the action and Enrico Morricone providing the score, completely flipping the genre on its ear.  A friend of mine who absolutely loves the western genre rates ‘Silverado’ as his favorite film of all time.  Hey I like ‘Silverado’ too, particularly the score (any decent western must have a catchy theme song) but I don’t know if I’d rate as my favorite film of all time, but then to each his own.  This brings us to the latest in the Western genre, ‘Seraphim Falls’ starring Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan.  Two Irish cats playing American cowboys.  What in the hell is the world coming to.  Certainly not a traditional western by any means, ‘Seraphim Falls’ is an interesting study between two driven characters.


Somewhere where it’s cold and snowy, I’m thinking Montana or somewhere, a man named Gideon (Brosnan) is huddled over a fire trying to stay warm, cooking up what looks to be baked rat.  He’s on the lookout for something, but he manages to lose his concentration for just a moment and that’s when the shots ring out hitting him once in his shoulder and sending careening down the snowy mountain.  The small posse doing the shooting, led by a grizzled man named Carver (Neeson), decide not to finish off the dude quite yet and let him run, bleed and suffer for a bit.  Don’t know what this Gideon cat did to this Carver guy, but he seriously doesn’t like this man. 

It doesn’t take long to watch Gideon on the run to realize that he’s not your average cowpoke.  Be it surviving rushing rapids in sub-zero temperatures, starting fires with sticks and powder, digging bullets out his arm among other things with his trusty knife, this man knows how to survive in rough terrain.  Wounded, with no horse, no gun,

and no coat in the freezing weather, his pursuers are relentless.  Still, we don’t the history of this chase, and neither does Gideon for that matter, and we won’t for a quite a while in this relatively long film.  Eventually Gideon has to stop running and start fighting and one by one he is able to eliminate Carvers men.  This is about the time that the men themselves realize that aren’t chasing your everyday cowpoke and start looking at Carver sideways wondering what the hell he has gotten them into.  From the snowy mountains into the blistering heat of the desert, the pursuit continues until it becomes inevitable and the two men are forced to face each other and face their respective demons.


Director David Von Ancken, who I guess is German or Dutch, directing two Irish dudes in an American Western.  All is well for ‘Seraphim Falls’ though, at least for most of the movie as the end gets a little out there.  At the forefront of this film are the fine performances of both Irish leads, but Pierce Brosnan in particular, who follows up his fantastic performance in ‘The Matador’ with a completely different type of character but an equally stellar performance.  Without knowing who his character is or what his character is about, one can still become involved with his simple, gritty, hardened motivation to survive.  He doesn’t even know or care why these men are hunting him, he just wished they would stop, or else he may have to go somewhere he didn’t want to return to.  I did have an issue though when in flashback we are given the reasons for Carver’s relentless pursuit of Gideon.  His reasons are most certainly justified, but the justification and handling of those scenes seem strangely out off place and disjointed.  Almost as if they were shot as an after thought with the filmmaker deciding that either the audience needs to ‘see’ why this chase is transpiring as opposed to being told why, or maybe they had no desire to tell us at all and a test audience balked at that.  I don’t know for sure, but it just didn’t seem to work.


Near the end ‘Seraphim Falls’ gets all spiritual on us with two characters who seem to appear out of thin air which includes a wise mystical Native American character (Wes Studi), as if a Native American is allowed to play any other kind of character nowadays, and a Satan-esque, deal making magical elixir peddler played by Anjelica Houston.  One character is good, the other not so.  They both speak in platitudes and parables and exactly what they represent to these men at this point in the proceedings is beyond my simple mind.


Despite running a little long at close to two hours, ‘Seraphim Falls’ is fairly entertaining movie, beautifully shot by cinematographer John Toll, and a fascinating tale of a man consumed by revenge and another wallowing in guilt. With a couple great performances by a pair Irish gentlemen playing American cowboys, ‘Seraphim Falls’, despite it’s final frames of weirdness, is a film worth seeing.

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