Tropic Sprockets / The Dead Don’t Hurt

By Ian Brockway

With echoes of “The Unforgiven” and “Shane,” director Viggo Mortensen has an absolute hit with his epic Western, “The Dead Don’t Hurt.” [Showtimes and trailer at] Set in the far West during the Civil War, the film is riveting, engaging and magnetic with beautifully rendered landscapes reminiscent of a classic by John Ford. While the two and a half hour running time may be daunting, the just-desserts satisfying finale is well worth the wait.

Olsen (Mortensen) is a quiet Danish carpenter. One day he meets French Canadien Vivienne (Vicky Krieps). She is being oppressively courted by a demanding and arrogant art collector.

To escape this male claustrophobia, Vivienne falls for the introspective Olsen. The romance becomes cemented, and she has a child with him.

Then at a saloon, a Union officer makes an announcement that his regiment is looking for soldiers.

Olsen enlists.

Then the psychotic Weston (Solly McLeod) with a financial hold on the saloon and many of the citizens decides to impress his intent upon Vivienne with sadistic violence. She is beaten bloody and raped. The episodes are not for the faint of heart.

Olsen understandably is enraged.

Vivienne is diagnosed with syphilis. There is no remission.

Olson goes on the hunt for Weston with his young son in tow.

Weston is very sinister and terrifying, yet he is edged with a pathetic quality. There is something impotent and senseless in him. That being said, Weston is the scariest villain since Jack Wilson in the aforementioned “Shane.”

The action steadily builds to a great apprehension.

Olsen himself, silent, modest, and wanting for nothing is a bit like Shane and he can be seen as a Christ figure.

This is old fashioned filmmaking of the highest order and there is something of the Hollywood magic of yesteryear in this battle of good versus evil.

The action and pathos are first rate along with a fine evocative score by Mortensen that swells dependably at all the right moments.

Western aficionados and newcomers to the time-honored genre alike will be well entertained. In this age of action blockbusters, such apprehension, drama, and attention to detail is no small achievement.

Write Ian at [email protected]

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