(director: Anthony Mandler; screenwriters: Andrew Pagana/Justin Thomas; cinematographer: Max Goldman; editor: Ron Patane; music: Robin Hannibal; cast: Letitia Wright (Moses “Mo” Washington), Jamie Bell (Tommy Walsh), Jeffrey Donovan (Wheeler), Augusta Allen-Jones (Miss Borders), Nathaniel Augustson (Halfbreed), Herman Johansen (Sheriff) Keith Jardine (Pike), Mark Dalton (Posse), Peter Diseth (Larry), Michael Kenneth Williams (Black Man), Tatanka Means (Scar), Andrew Pagana (Andy), Brett Gelman (Mr. Fields); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Anthony Mandler/Letitia Wright/Derek Iger/Aaron L. Gilbert/Jason Michael Berman/Ade O’Adesina; MGM+; 2023)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Anthony Mandler (“Monster”) passionately directs this quirky Western. It’s smartly written by Andrew Pagana and Justin Thomas. It did not get a theater release and thereby opens with a streaming/on-demand debut, after being in the can for the last two years for a reason unknown to me.
Five years after the end of the Civil War, the former Buffalo Soldier, the Black female “Mo” Washington (Letitia Wright) is free. In her possession is an official document for a gold mine in Colorado. Figuring it was dangerous passing alone through the West in a stagecoach as a woman, she disguises herself as a man while traveling to her promised land.
The stage she’s on is ambushed by a gang of outlaws, led by the notorious bank robber Tommy Walsh (Jamie Bell).
During the hold-up, she loses her deed when the stage goes over a cliff.
Soon Walsh and his gang are captured by the lawman Wheeler (Jeffrey Donovan). When he leaves to go back to town to get the sheriff (Herman Johansen) and his deputies to help bring in the gang, he leaves Mo in charge of guarding the tied up prisoners.
The story gets interesting, as the intimidating Walsh tries to bribe her with a promise of letting her keep the buried loot from his bank robberies if she lets him go. The wily Mo tries to figure out the best way to handle the situation so she doesn’t get screwed and lose everything. All the while, she feels threatened by the outlaw’s gang trying to free him and by him trying to get his way with her.
If you can navigate your way through a few of the film’s dead spots, you should find this a superior Western.
REVIEWED ON 6/21/2023 GRADE: B