A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
After Albert (Seth MacFarlane) backs out of a gunfight, his fickle girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) leaves him for another man (Neil Patrick Harris). When a mysterious and beautiful woman (Charlize Theron) rides into town, she helps him find his courage and they begin to fall in love. But when the notorious outlaw of her husband (Liam Neeson) arrives seeking revenge, the farmer must put his newfound courage to the test.
Review by Louise Keller:
Today's sensibilities and yesterday's reality is the quirky juxtaposition for Seth MacFarlane's 19th century western romp, filled with expletives, farts, sheep jokes and a frontier cast. MacFarlane shoulders the role of director, writer, producer and star and much of the appeal lies in the wacky bunch of characters whose interactions and adventures weave a bawdy tale filled with absurdities and contradictions. The silliness and juvenile humour is delivered in a broader context, compounded by the presence of Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron, who bring a horse-load of class to the Arizona Wild West. It could have been funnier and some of the sheep penis jokes could have been circumcised, but there is an appealing cumulative effect to the nonsense; beyond the smut, the characters are lovable and have an appealing innocence.
First and foremost, the expansive desert is well established as the setting of the tale, with striking classic shots of sand, rock and barren landscape. (Michael Barrett's cinematography is superb.) MacFarlane's cowardly, insecure protagonist Albert definitely does not belong here in this time or place - where you gotta be 'bold, fearless and tough as iron'. The fact that he loses his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) in the opening gunfight - resulting from his losing his courage and self-esteem - is the plot's key driver. But these aren't the only things he loses; he is always losing his sheep, which also figure for running gags throughout.
Highlight is a wonderful fantasy sequence with talking and dancing sheep following Albert's drug-intoxication at a native American campfire. There are a few low-lights, but none as low as the diarrhoea gross-out when a hat (or two) becomes an urgent necessity. The subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi's virgin Edward, who is engaged to the town whore Ruth (Sarah Silverman) is funny as it is stretched to the limits; Ribisi's dead-pan expression is priceless, while Silverman lets fly the crude descriptions of her clients' desires. Neil Patrick Harris is fun as the moustachioed Foy, who takes up with Louise.
But it is the big guns who steal the thunder with Neeson as Clinch, the most vicious gunfighter in the territory and Theron as his wife Anna, who needs to 'get a few assholes out of her system to see what a good guy looks like.' MacFarlane directs impressively and as Albert has a Jim Carey appeal - that boyish mischievous look ensures we like him. As for the title - there is a reason of course - but that's for you to discover when you see the film.
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A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (M)
CAST: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris
PRODUCER: Scott Stuber, Jason Clark, Seth MacFarlane
DIRECTOR: Seth MacFarlane
SCRIPT: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Barrett
EDITOR: Jeff Freeman
MUSIC: Joel McNeely
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen J. Lineweaver
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 29, 2014