Scott Martin’s Big Kill tells the story of Jim (Christoph Sanders), an accountant who works in 19th-century Philadelphia. After his brother writes to him about the wonders of life in the titular Arizona town, Jim decides to travel west to join him; along the way, he also befriends two vagrant gunmen named Jake (Scott Martin) and Travis (Clint Hummel). Upon arriving at Big Kill, however, the three of them discover that Jim’s brother is nowhere to be found—and that the townspeople are all caught in the grip of a sadistic killer named “the Preacher” (Jason Patric).
While many recent Westerns (e.g. last year’s The Sisters Brothers) are defined by their revisionist tone, Big Kill presents itself as a homage to genre classics. The comical opening, for instance, features a chase and confrontation that feel right out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Towards the end, moreover, the final shoot-outs are shot in a way that recalls the prolonged, unabashedly melodramatic fights in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns.
“…Jim’s brother is nowhere to be found—and that the townspeople are all caught in the grip of a sadistic killer named ‘the Preacher’”
As nostalgic as these moments might make you feel, however, they can’t compensate for the overall film’s many, many flaws. Aside from being full of holes for one, the plot concludes with a resolution that’s both anticlimactic and predictable. Additionally, the film also has several underdeveloped subplots, most of which end up becoming annoying distractions. And when it comes down to it, the majority of the scenes are simply red herrings – namely, drawn-out conversations that tease at confrontation but ultimately lead nowhere.
In the end, two things prevent Big Kill from being a complete flop. First, Mark Atkins’ cinematography is gorgeous, containing sweeping vistas that would’ve made John Ford proud. And second, although most of the characters are caricatures, several of the actors clearly get a kick out of their roles, particularly Patric. If only the rest of the movie were as entertaining as they are.
Big Kill (2018) Directed by Scott Martin. Written by Scott Martin. Starring Christoph Sanders, Scott Martin, Clint Hummel, Jason Patric, and K.C. Clyde.
2 out of 10