Since beginning this path as a film critic, some things that I have begun to notice are recurring trends in cinema. We have these waves of different genres cresting throughout history, with varying degrees of quality. One trend that I’m enjoying seeing as of late is the Western. Whether the film or television show is directly a Western or just heavily inspired, it is comforting that this genre is making a bit of quiet comeback. While we are being bombarded with bombastic super hero films, we are also being distracted from the quiet lonesome stranger riding into town with little to carry besides a heaping amount of vengeance. And with Henrique Couto’s CALAMITY JANE’S REVENGE, we get to see that vengeance served up.
In a story written by John Oak Dalton (JURASSIC PREY, ALONE IN THE GHOST HOUSE). we follow a tale about Martha Jane Canary, better known as Calamity Jane (Erin R Ryan, BABYSITTER MASSACRE, EASTER CASKET), in her attempt to track down the men behind the death of her lover (and rumored husband) Wild Bill Hickok. Based on some of Jane’s claims, the story tells of her pursuit of “Crooked Nose” Jack McCall (Josh Miller, APPLECART, SCUM) and his band of miscreants. Trying to stop her from enacting vigilante justice, the new sheriff enlists the help of tracker Colorado Charlie Utter (Al Snow, former WWE wrestler).
Filmed in Ohio, you have to suspend your sense of disbelief a bit as the story is set near Deadwood, South Dakota. While the surroundings don’t quite match what you may be used to, Couto as director of photography, does his damnedest to ensure that you still get a good Western feel. Each shot of scenery is done so beautifully, and gives you good long wide shots, similar to many classic Westerns. The score is also used well to evoke the spirit, using mostly acoustic guitar, banjo and strings.
With a history of low budget horror and comedies, I was intrigued to see what Henrique had up his multi-colored sleeves. As his horror films have a tendency to play up exploitation tropes, I was curious to see if CALAMITY JANE’S REVENGE would follow suit. And while there are a couple death sequences that start to edge towards that, the majority of the film would fit right in with anything else playing on Encore Westerns. Done on a smaller budget, Couto does a great job of ensuring that him and his crew wring as much production value as they can. While not having full access to period costumes, they did a great job of sticking as close as possible with what they had access to. And with an attempt to keep the dialogue and action as close to the genre as possible, you are able to not notice these things.
Erin R. Ryan does a great job in the lead of this film. She is able to tap into the emotional core of a grieving widow, and turn into a deadly rage. Also, she isn’t afraid to get herself dirty, as she really gets herself into the scene with the stunts. She’s consistently been a solid actress for both Couto and Dustin Wayde Mills, and more director’s need to start using her skills. Snow’s take on Utter is a fun one. While they didn’t get a ton of time to work with him, he did a great job of getting into the character, and was a bad ass, hard nosed tracker. But the real surprise was with newcomer Julia Gomez as Fay. While her character was rather subdued, she played it with plenty of emotion behind the eyes, allowing Fay to be more than just a damsel in distress.
Dalton’s script, taking heavily from both historical and anecdotal accounts of Canary’s life, keeps the story flowing throughout, with just a few clunky bits of monologue. When the actors are allowed to get into the scene and show the emotions behind it, however, the flow of it all comes together. There are some great interactions with the new sheriff (Todd the Fox, who also handled the music) and Snow’s Colorado Charlie, as well as a few great scenes with Fay and Jane.
If you are looking for a fun, quick, modern take on a Western revenge story, then you could have just the right ride with CALAMITY JANE’S REVENGE. Follow the film updates on the official Facebook site. The film will be having it’s world premiere September 25th (details here) You can also pre-order the DVD/Blu-Ray combo here!