South of Heaven: West of Hell (2000)

Dwight Yoakam’s directorial debut is unsurprisingly a western, South of Heaven :West of Hell. For fans of the offbeat, this is a bit of a find, being closer in tone and content to High Plains Drifter and the TV series Deadwood than anything John Wayne might have appeared in. The characters are often incoherent and randomly motivated, and the pace is uneven: it ambles along uneventfully for an hour or so, then characters start to die unpleasantly with little logic and a heavy debt to Sam Peckinpah.

It’s very well-made for such a cheap movie but is also very patchy, which will be no surprise to anyone who’s heard Yoakam’s albums. The director of photography is James Glennon, who went on to perform a similar role on Deadwood, and there’s an amazing supporting cast composed of Yoakam’s friends, who must have done it for nothing. Vince Vaughn is the only one who takes it seriously, and Billy Bob Thornton is only there to convince Yoakam to appear on his album (which is surprisingly good, but that’s another story…)

Mild Peril Rating: ★★★☆☆

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