Directed by: Scott Martin/2018
Couched in the feel-good music of yesteryear, comes an all new Western adventure called Big Kill. Directed by Scott Martin, Big Kill seeks to infuse some fun into the Western genre, while using an overused storyline. The results are mixed but do the characters might have just enough charm to help the film strike it rich? Individual reactions to that question, after having seen the film, will likely vary.
Jim Andrews (Christoph Sanders-Last Man Standing) is a tenderfoot accountant from Philadelphia who has headed west to join his brother in an Arizona town called Big Kill, where apparently everyone has struck it rich. While on his journey west, he comes across an army fort which has been housing two known gambler/gunslinger-types who are wanted by the Mexican Army. The first is Travis Parker (Clint Hummel-Alien Battlefield), a suave-looking ladies’ man who is good at cards but is more interested in love. He is someone who can always be found in whatever brothel, or bedroom houses the most beautiful woman in town. His partner is Jake Logan (Scott Martin-Battle Force), a terrible card player, despite being a gambler, but is rumored to be the best gunslinger around. Jim hires Travis and Jake to guide him to Big Kill, Arizona, as well as serve as his bodyguards as he cuts across the New Mexico territory into Arizona.
As they arrive into Big Kill, the town is all-but-dead, though kept up. Locals continue to run their shops and give every appearance of still being a part of a rich town, only the streets and businesses are largely empty. The mayor (K.C. Clyde-I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) is away and things are being kept in line by The Preacher (Jason Patric-The Lost Boys, Rush), a murderous man of the cloth, who keeps things in line adhering to an overwrought sense of carrying out God’s divine wrath, and very little of His grace. His enforcer is Johnny Kane (Lou Diamond Phillips-Young Guns 1 and 2), a known gunslinger who is itching for a fight, especially when a man like Jake comes into town with a reputation of being the best draw around.
As Jim looks for his brother, he becomes enamored with a local store clerk’s daughter named Josie Strong (Elizabeth McLaughlin-Hand of God). Josie gives Jim, along with Jake and Travis, a better picture of what has been happening in the town of Big Kill, forcing them all to decide if they are going to stay and plant roots, or head out of town before things really get dangerous.
The film takes the old standard plot of a town withering under the stranglehold of a ruthless bad guy until strangers come into town to challenge him and give the town hope, and just leans into it. The point doesn’t seem to do anything new with the genre, the tropes, narrative, or the dialogue. Instead, it seems to just be an exercise for the writer/director/star Scott Martin to have fun. If so, then it is obvious that they did have fun, but nothing more.
Having Jason Patric and Lou Diamond Phillips, as well as a cameo from Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Till Dawn), is just a great get for a director with an unproven track record, and largely unknown cast. The film gets that it is a bit over-the-top, as is their henchwoman, Felicia Stiletto (Stephanie Beran-Battle Force), who works at the brothel, bewitching Travis, but is known to quickly pull a blade and plunge it into her victims multiple times for the kill. Big Kill also uses a little hyperbole to make fun of the gambling culture of the old west, with Travis having to resort to playing “Go Fish” with Jake, who is terrible at cards, lampooning Mel Gibson’s Maverick when Jake keeps betting high despite not looking at his hold card. In Big Kill that move creates the required tension for the scene, without the big payoff.
The musical score of Big Kill is a throwback reminder of the fun had on shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Have Gun Will Travel, Maverick, and Rawhide. The film itself uses this music to create the feeling that one is watching a two-hour episode of such a show, albeit a rated-R one, rather than a stand alone film. I could easily see Scott Martin returning to tell more stories of Jake and Travis and their crazy adventurous out west, but it wouldn’t be as interesting, or as funny, as films like Young Guns and Young Guns 2 (which starred Lou Diamond Phillips) were some 30 years ago. That isn’t to say that Big Kill isn’t somewhat enjoyable, but that it just isn’t going to strike it rich trying to mine the same old ground that has been mined before.
Big Kill is now playing at select, limited theaters in some markets.