Dead West is billed as an action western following Tony (played by Jeffrey Arrington, John Freeman Story, Vicious), brother of a victim of a serial killer known only as The Ladykiller (Brian Sutherland of Fat Kid Rules the World and The Shootout). However, what begins as a typical revenge story soon divulges into a complex study of love, tragedy, and murder revolving around The Ladykiller.
The movie begins with The Ladykiller murdering Tony’s sister, Charlene (Carollani Sandberg, All things Hidden, Brides to Be) in a country western bar after luring her outside. After this crime occurs, the stage is set for Tony to come after The Ladykiller, as he leaves a trail of bodies connecting Tony to his sister’s murderer. However, rather than embark on Tony’s journey of guilt and self-loathing, the audience instead rides alongside The Ladykiller who, by all accounts, appears to be a wanderer looking for love.
While the concept of Dead West is intriguing, it falls short of capturing everything the film actually encompasses, which is a complicated story with The Ladykiller as the star. The Ladykiller is a charismatic, yet vicious serial killer who is followed in the midst of his prime at a time in serial murder called “rage mode”. Basically, this is when a serial killer is in the climax of their criminal career, where they usually turn the most vicious and deadly. The Ladykiller of Dead West is dealing with his own rage mode as the viewers join him and this provides a thrill that was unexpected from the given synopsis.
The Ladykiller himself is a fantastic character and Brian Sutherland deserves immense praise for his performance in the role. The Ladykiller is complex, believable, and eerily human to the point where he can garner sympathy from the audience at times from his genuinely sad, lonely moments of isolation. Sutherland does a great job of portraying a man who started his journey with some form of reason, but has turned into a diluted sort of morality that can be confusing at times.
For instance, The Ladykiller goes after a child abuser and a woman beater, but if you are contending with his twisted form of The Bachelor, smoking a cigarette (in your own house mind you) will get you stabbed. While the later part describes a semi-confusing aspect of his personality, the logic makes more sense as Dead West plays out, since the viewer will discover there is not any method to his madness.
Besides Sutherland, most of the other actors give impressive performances in Dead West. Tony, the vengeful brother, is a heartfelt character and Jeffrey Arrington really does the character justice. You can feel the pain that Tony feels when he decides to go after The Ladykiller, following the death of his sister, and his torment is palpable. Even actors with minor parts, like those in the western bars or people The Ladykiller meets along the way, give believable performances. There is an especially memorable character who sells sweet tea in a park that sticks out.
Dead West is not without flaws, however. There is no clear distinction of the era in which the movie is supposed to take place. For the first 30 or so odd minutes, one could make the argument that the movie is in the 1970s and 1980s, hence why The Ladykiller is able to move freely and why no one is on their cell-phone. But, later on, newer car models and cell-phones are introduced, so it’s unclear whether the point they are trying to make is that the Deep South is behind the rest of the world, or if budget prevented the filmmakers from rooting the story in any one time period.
Also, the third act gets a little slow after the action of the climax, but it doesn’t make sense until the end of the film, where everything, thankfully, manages to come full circle. This is an interesting plot device and it makes sense after the film ends, but while watching it may be a tad confusing for some viewers.
It’s clear a considerable amount of care and attention went into Dead West, in order to make it the enjoyable and interesting film that it is. In spite of some decent action sequences, and certain western trappings, Dead West more to the table than is at first obvious. The movie includes a coherent, three-dimensional villain, believable locations, realistic characters, and even music choices that are carefully selected to give more contexts for the scenes. I would highly recommend Dead West.
Catch Dead West when it releases on DVD Tuesday, February 2017
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Jeff Ferrell
Writer(s): Jeff Ferrell
Stars: Brian Sutherland, Lisa Coronado, Jeffrey Arrington
Studio/ Production Co: Enlighten Media Group
Release date: February 7th, 2017
Length: 115 min