Making its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2010 is The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, a boring and frustrating action-western; its only real saving grace is an impressive cast.
The story is set in the early 20th century where a woman named Juliette Flowers heads off to claim the body of her dead lover Ransom in order to fulfil his wishes of being buried next to his mother.
However, when a mysterious woman claiming his dead body for herself won’t give it up, Juliette makes a deal to swap Ransom for his living brother Champ. Getting in the way is Ransom’s controlling, God-fearing father (Dwight Yoakam) and some henchman who have been sent to kill her and retrieve Champ.
If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of fun, that’s because on paper it is. However, it’s in the execution of it all that the film severely falters. The film has a stylish edge to it but most of the time it takes it to hyper-kinetic and distracting heights. Jerky editing, weird colours (often so stylized the screen is physically hard to look at) and over-the-top dialogue all come across as though the filmmakers are trying way too hard to make some sort of cult film. The problem is a cult film can’t be manufactured.
Although the plot looks fine on its own, on screen it’s just confusing and messy. There’s no real point to any of it and it just seems like an excuse to mash-up a Western with modern film-making style. By the end I didn’t really care what became of the characters or if they succeeded in their respective goals.
One of, if not the only, truly great things about Ransom Pride is the cast, from Dwight Yoakam (on peculiar form as always) and Lizzy Caplan to Jon Foster and Cote de Pablo. Even Scott Speedman, who only appears as the titular Ransom Pride in a few flashback scenes, is impressive.
The few moments of fun I got out of the film were the extended cameos peppered throughout. Notable examples include Peter Dinklage (unsurprisingly as a character named The Dwarf) and Kris Kristofferson (as one of the film’s many villains). Amongst the boring, drawn out scenes there’s at least a game of “spot the actor” to be had.
In addition to the top-notch cast, there are also some interesting artistic touches to be found and admired. For example, at the end of every scene there is a visual recap of all the action that took place during the scene. It only lasts a few seconds each time but it does a good job of punctuating the scene breaks memorably, without being distracting.
Overall The Last Rites of Ransom Pride is a boring, one-dimensional film with an uninteresting plot, underwritten characters and underwhelming action. The plot manages to be both uninspired and overly complicated, with too much going on at the one time and the character’s motivation getting clouded by the mess around them. Not entirely without merit but there’s simply not enough positive here to make up for the abundance of negatives.