The Ballad of Lefty Brown

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It’s 1889. Montana Territory is on the brink of statehood. But it’s still the Wild West, where a bud guy shoots an innocent for a $2 poker debt and then gets hanged sans trial in the next scene by a vigilante sheriff. There is no room here for digital movie making: good old Kodak 35mm stock is all that will do.

“The Ballad of Lefty Brown” is the coming of age of a 63 year-old cowboy and a Wyatt-Earp-wannabe teenager. For 40 years, Lefty rode sidekick to three legendary Indian fighters. One became the slick, conniving territorial governor. Another an alcoholic US Marshall. The third, Lefty’s protector, is a Sheriff and designated to become Montana’s new US Senator, until he and Lefty are ambushed by horse thieves.

Lefty vows to avenge his boss and friend, even though no one believes that he can. Scenery, chases, and shootouts follow, in a tribute to old Hollywood Westerns that you either love or hate. The tight focus and grainy backgrounds evoke the old days of oaters as much as the dusty hills, handsome horses and flying bullets.

Bill Pullman as Lefty *is* the movie. By turns he brings out Lefty as goofy, uncertain, loyal, determined, sly and just plain gonzo. The other characters are rather one-dimensional, and most of them get shot for their trouble. Or hanged.

There have been better Westerns, but few recent ones. And no others scheduled for original release this December 15. Worth seeing for Bill Pullman.

Phil Neches

 

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