The Good, The Bady and Yes Some Ugly
I know it is a cliche to say this but "The Gundown" is a case of the good, the bad and the ugly, go on groan I know you want to. The good is that whilst this modern attempt at a western basically uses nothing more than cliche stories Dustin Rikert paces it differently to the norm so that whilst you know what is going to happen it doesn't always happen when you expect it. The bad, well it is the characters and the cliche characteristics from a female gunslinger with a top which accentuates her bust to every time someone holsters their gun they twirl it. And the ugly well the camera work and the editing is poor, there is no hiding from it with clunky action which the camera man has trouble shooting and an editor who chops it so that there is no flow. It means that "The Gundown" is strangely watchable but also sadly a poor modern western.
Having spent years tracking down the men who killed his wife and child Cole Brandt (Andrew W. Walker - Carnal Innocence) finds himself in the town of Dead River where Travis McCain (William Shockley) and his outlaws including the sexy Dulce (Veronica Diaz) are trying to force their protection on everyone. They've already got rid of the one man who posed any resistance, Thomas Morgan (Peter Coyote) owner of The Majestic and it is only a matter of time before they get their way. Despite not wanting to be a lawman Cole finds himself not only falling for Cassey May (Allison Gordon), a hooker who works at McCain's saloon but also feels some form of loyalty to Sarah Morgan (Sheree J. Wilson) who is trying to keep her late husband's saloon running.
So when it comes to story "The Gundown" is nothing more than cliche from the Cole who is a lone rider looking for revenge to the evil McCain who plans to take control of Dead River. With the exception that McCain has Dulce, a female quick draw, everything about it follows what you will have seen before which means after some shootings everything builds to the big climax. But what makes it more interesting is in many ways the pacing because whilst initially it feels lethargic and distracted by the insignificant it means that whilst you know a moment of action or drama is coming it comes at a different time than you expect.
So the way the story is dealt with is the good but unfortunately the characters and their characteristics is the bad. Now visually these characters and also the sets feel like they have come from a made for TV western, one of those family drama types where we have some handsome young men and pretty women. There is something a bit different to them as we also get nudity and suggestive hand movements but these are the handsome people which fill modern westerns. But the way they act, the way they stare down and speak and handle their guns is corny as hell and whilst it may excite the young to see someone twirl their gun it is so corny it is ridiculous.
But that is not the worst of it because there is the ugly and that is the camera work. Now I don't know whether it was the cameras they used were at fault or whether it was intentional but the image is incredibly jolty and washed out but there are also some nervous zooms which also end up annoying. But it is during the action where it really is bad because there is no close ups, no excitement and an editor who has removed anything close to being flow so that it looks messy.
What this all boils down to is that I like what director Dustin Rikert attempted to do with the cliche story to "The Gundown" but unfortunately everything else from the characters to the camera work is bad and ugly and certainly not a movie for western fans.