Slow West  is the directorial debut of John Maclean. It is the story of a young Scotsman named Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who, along with a drifter named Silas (Michael Fassbender) as his guide, travels across the American West in search of his true love, Rose (Caren Pistorius).
It’s Funny. I appreciate a film that weaves comedy into the narrative without stopping and starting at every joke to wink at the audience. I also appreciate visual comedy; films that can use cinematic techniques to tell a joke instead of two-hour long improv shows me that Maclean understands their medium. Luckily enough, Slow West has both. I understand that because the film doesn’t wink at the audience during the comedy, it might seem a little dry for some. If you enjoy rather violent slapstick, you’ll be sure to love the comedy at play here.
It’s Sad. Despite this film being a comedy, it also manages to juggle some rather grim thematic elements about death, a killing. It’s strange that the film can treat violence as comedy through slapstick and then retrospectively look at that same violence as a tragedy. There are moments in this film where it perhaps drops the ball a little as its message gets muddled; however, the film puts itself back together in the climactic ending of the film. This combination works because Maclean manages the film’s tone so well.
It’s Western Archetypes Played Well. Maclean directs some great performances (although most of these actors need little direction). Fassbender, underplays that western gunslinger perfectly, too busy chewing up a stogie to chew up the scenery. This effortlessness in his acting serves the careless attitude of Silas well and he feels like a cool character because he’s not trying to be. Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the hopelessly in love teenager well and is an easy enough character to side with. Ben Mendelsohn is a severely underexposed character actor, who is brilliant in everything, his portrayal of the dirty bounty hunter Payne, is no exception.
Whoever said you can’t teach an old genre new tricks?