This stylized, darkly comedic shoot-'em-up bristles with reverential allusions to edgy Western greats Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, and offers nods to Stephen King's Dark Tower graphic novel and Jim Jarmusch for his 1995 hallucinatory cult Western Dead Man.
Last Rites is set in 1910, a waning period in the hyper-violent Wild West that intrigued director Tiller Russell, because, as he tells The Range, ".45 semi-automatics were being used in backroom gunfights alongside flint-lock pistols, just as horses were riding side by side with the same kind of Harley Davidsons the U.S. Army dispatched a fleet of into Mexico to hunt down Pancho Villa."
The film traces the story of a young, hot female gunslinger (Lizzy Caplan) who’s determined to risk all—and perhaps betray all—to undertake a perilous journey, culminating in a blood sacrifice trade with a Mexican bruja (witch) for the bullet-riddled corpse of her lover: a borderland desperado named Ransom Pride. She wants to bring him home for a proper burial.
One of the film’s standout performances is the understated yet riveting work of Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent), a double-barreled, sawed-off shotgun-toting dwarf who’s indisputably a badass—although he has the mind and soul of a poet.
The movie also stars outlaw country-music legends Kris Kristofferson and Dwight Yoakam, and is based on a screenplay written by another, Texas country elder statesmen Ray Wylie Hubbard.
"When I met Kristofferson (to discuss the film), all he said to me was, 'I love it. I want to do it. What else you wanna talk about?' And I said, 'Peckinpah.' At which point (Kristofferson) regaled me with the story of making Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, with Peckinpah and (Bob) Dylan, in Durango, Mexico. He told me how Dylan came up with the lyrics for "Knocking on Heaven's Door" while Peckinpah was taking a piss in the screening room, 'cuz he was so pissed off about the dailies being out of focus. Apparently, the room went dark when Pecknipah was standing in front of the projector light, and Dylan just started writing. And I thought, 'Bury me ... this is as good it gets.'"
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride is scheduled to be screened at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W Congress St., on Friday, Sept. 24, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.50 at the door or at www.azundergroundfilmfest.com.
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