(director/writer: Richard Gray; screenwriter: Eric Belgau; cinematographer: John Garrett; editor: Joe Mitacek; music: Mel Elias; cast:  Gabriel Byrne (Sheriff Jim Ambrose),  Thomas Jane (Thaddeus Murphy), Isaiah Mustafa (Cicero), Anna Camp (Alice Murphy), Richard Dreyfuss (Edgar Blake), Emma Kenney (Rebecca), Zach McGowan (Robert Dunnigan), Scotty Thompson (Emma Dunnigan), John Ales (Mickey O’Hare), Tanaya Beatty (Violet Running Horse), Aimee Garcia (Isabel Santos), Nat Wolff (Young Jim Ambrose); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Richard Gray/Robert Menzies/Lisa Wolfsky/Kelly Frazier/Anjul Nigam/Julie Stagner; RLJE Films; 2022)

“Never catches fire.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The overlong, derivative Western (same old, same old) indie by Aussie director Richard Gray (“Robert the Bruce”/”Broken Ghost”) might be well-crafted but never catches fire as it drags on at a lumbering pace, offers nothing new, has too many characters to keep track of and becomes tedious as its reigned in by writer Eric Belgau’s flat script.

Its set in 1881, in the Old West frontier mining town of Yellow Stone City, Montana, a once booming town on the decline after a mining accident wiped out half the male population. The downtrodden town is in an uproar when a prospector (Zach McGowan) who just struck gold and planned to spread the wealth in the town, is killed.

The widower marshal, a regular guy, Jim Ambrose (Gabriel Byrne), with a teenage son (Nat Wolff) he raises alone, arrests for the murder a newly arrived stranger in town, a Shakespearean scholar and former slave named Cicero (Isaiah Mustafa, former Old Spice spokesman). But the local preacher Thaddeus Murphy (Tom Jane), the sheriff’s friend, hiding from his wife (Anna Camp) his outlaw past, objects to this injustice–arresting someone without any proof. This arrest divides the town between those on the sheriff’s side and those on the preacher’s side.

Other important characters include the literary town bartender Edgar (Richard Dreyfuss), a Shakespeare lover, who dreams of bringing to the forsaken town a theater. He has partnered with the prospector just killed to finance his dream project.

The Native American, Violet Running Horse (Tanaya Beatty), is soon murdered after questioning the Black man’s arrest, as this messy Western, reaches the climax with the inevitable gunfight seen in many of the classic Westerns
. The film bogs down in its middle part, with too many cliches, too many soap opera-like subplots and too many suspects used as red herrings.

I have a love for the oldie Western if done efficiently, but this modern-day remake of the
oldie oater was a turn off because it was pretty clear who the guilty party was from the beginning and the soap opera filler material bored me until the action-filled climax awakened me.

Murder at Yellowstone City


REVIEWED ON 9/14/2022  GRADE: C+