France/Belgium/Sweden - 2017)
Written and directed by Martin Koolhoven. Cast: Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Kit Harington, Carice Van Houten, Emilia Jones, Paul Anderson, William Houston, Ivy George, Bill Tangradi, Jack Roth, Jack Hollington, Vera Vitali, Carla Juri, Adrian Sparks, Naomi Battrick, Justin Salinger, Frederick Schmidt, Dan Van Husen. (R, 148 mins)
Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven's first film since his acclaimed 2008 WWII drama WINTER IN WARTIME is a western so relentlessly bleak, grim, and disturbing that it makes HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER look like a Gene Autry vehicle. Equal parts Quentin Tarantino, Lars von Trier, and Paul Thomas Anderson, the ambitious BRIMSTONE has moments of stunning atmosphere and remarkable audacity, scathingly critical of religion and patriarchy and those who use them to manipulate and subjugate. Told in four chapters (shades of von Trier and Tarantino) that unfold in reverse order (very Tarantino-like, but also perhaps a nod to star Guy Pearce being in MEMENTO), BRIMSTONE assembles the pieces of its puzzle--which later involves a couple of cast members taking on seemingly multiple roles--very deliberately and skillfully over its mammoth and often punishing two-and-a-half hours. As far as Guy Pearce westerns go, BRIMSTONE makes THE PROPOSITION seem like a feelgood crowd-pleaser by comparison. It's decidedly not for everyone and seems to be getting a more positive response in Europe than it is in the US, where its nonexistent commercial appeal has, not surprisingly, banished it to VOD with no push at all.