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A Western as a Western should be: gritty, dirty, crude, mumbly, and with heroes that are not very heroic, women that are good-hearted and desirable, and shootouts that do not turn out the way they are intended to.

Michael Fassbender holds it together, being handsome and cool, always on top of things even when all hell breaks loose, until he isn’t… but the new young boy Kodi Smit-McPhee also performs greatly as dreamy-eyed adventurer of love. The way his adventure does not play out well in the end has a tinge of artificiality that does not quite match the rest of the film, but still worked well for me. There is a touch of grotesquery when his Jay is passive observer to how his dream floats away in gun smoke. He also has a great entering scene, covered in the dust of a burning forest, beautifully shot and already indicating the things to come. Ashes to ashes…

The plot about a bunch of outlaws converging towards a little house in the prairie that promises a considerable reward for those who get there first allows for enough tension to add to the atmosphere. Director John M. Maclean is mastering this like an old hand, but with his own special touch, with relaxed sobriety. His skill shows even more in a robbery scene taking place in a way station where some protagonists stock up on food and gear and which involves a couple of desperate Swedes, a shopkeeper and of course cool hand luke Fassbender.

A very pleasant and intense contribution to the Western genre that shows that it’s still alive, if treated by the right people.

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