December 8, 2013 -- If you are looking for a film with a surprise ending, this is not it. You can see this ending coming from several miles away. This is a story about inevitable consequences, fate, predestination, a striving against insurmountable odds. This the kind of story that critics love, but most in the audience might find it a bit depressing.
This is an old-fashioned story in some ways. It is about how you can't beat the system. You can't go up against the man and expect to win. You cannot rise above your class in society. If you are born poor, you are going to stay that way. It's like that old song, “I fought the law and the law won.” This is not The American Dream. It is the American Nightmare.
This is a story about Bob Muldoon and Ruth Guthrie, two young lovers with nothing better to do, so they decide to take the money and run. Then they get caught. During a shootout with deputies at the Muldoon family's old abandoned ranch, Ruth (played by Rooney Mara of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) shoots a deputy, Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster of “Pandorum”) wounding him. Bob Muldoon claims responsibility for the shooting and is sent to prison. Ruth is freed to raise Bob's daughter, Sylvie (played by twins Kennadie Smith and Jacklynn Smith) who is born after he is in prison.
Bob escapes from prison, digs up the loot he has buried at the old farm, and plans to run away with Ruth and Sylvie. It is a simple plan, but it gets complicated for several reasons. First, a dangerous man in town who is taking care of Ruth, Skerritt (played by Keith Carradine of “Cowboys & Aliens”) doesn't want her to go with Bob. Second, there is a dangerous band of outlaws who are gunning for Bob. It looks like these guys got their fashion ideas from “Duck Dynasty.” Third, the law is looking for Bob, too, and they expect him to try to pick up Ruth and Sylvie and flee. There is also a bigger complication. That is a lot of complications, but Bob is determined to go ahead with his plan. He is just that stubborn, and just that much in love with his wife.
There are unexplored back stories galore in this film, having to do with Skerritt and the seedy outlaws. Skerritt evidently was involved in something like an organized crime operation at one time. He appears to be a dangerous man. At least he keeps threatening to kill people. That might reasonably cause one to suspect that he is a dangerous man. He also appears to be kind of a father figure to both Bob and Ruth, even though he threatens Bob.
All of these threats and dangerous people combine for a couple of shootouts involving Bob, Skerritt, Wheeler and those seedy outlaws. Even though there are shootouts, the movie remains strangely low-key. People die of gunshot wounds, but they don't get excited about it. It's like, “I'm hit, I'm bleeding, I'm dying, big deal.” These characters who don't seem to get worked up over their own lives, or their own deaths.
There are a couple of romances in the film, but the only one with any real energy is the one between Bob and Ruth. The other one is kind of low-key. Even though the film isn't very exciting and nothing about is very surprising, either, it is generally well-acted, well lensed and well-written. This is the kind of acting, direction and cinematography that gets awards. It has won a few awards already and it might win some more. This film rates a B.
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