Brimstone (2016)

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Martin Koolhoven directs Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce and Kit Harington in this fractured timeline western centred around the life of a mute woman who is pursued relentlessly by a violent preacher. 

There are two films at play here. One is quite a pleasurable Pulp Fiction-esque anthology transplanted into the West, as your standard separate western stock plots are tweaked and well delivered yet also collide into each other to create a satisfying whole. The second is an unflinching allegory about how the sexual abuse a young woman suffers follows her throughout her life. This often borrows the incredulity and nasty exploitation of a full on slasher horror film, which clashes discomfortingly with the strong western elements. A film about sex abuse should make you shift in your seat, wrench your gut, but this crosses into exploitation a little too often. From an entertainment point of view there’s four really good mini cowboy adventure over seasoned with real life grimness. Fanning is as strong as ever, having now completely shaken off her child prodigy origins. Pearce is brutally compelling in a role that would be rote in the hands of a less skilled actor or a less confident B-genre star. And despite the fact that Koolhoven has made some distasteful and indulgent decisions, his mastery of the western side of things does make we want to catch up with his previous work.

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