The Ballad of Lefty Brown (Jared Moshe, 2017): USA

Reviewed by Kimberli Wong, AFI Fest 2017

I don’t know a lot about Westerns.  I haven’t watched that many.  However, if one of Jared Moshe’s intentions was to relay the unforgiving nature of living out in the Wild Wild West, the emphasis on self-reliance, and a place where people take the law into their own hands, then he succeeded on these accounts.

Bill Pullman plays a simple, but not a pushover by any means, ranch hand named Lefty Brown to Senator Edward Johnson (Peter Fonda).  When the Senator is murdered, Lefty vows to find the killers and bring them to justice.

Lefty is quickly supported by two long-time friends to him, Tom (Tommy Flanagan) and Jimmy (Jim Caviezel).  Worried that Lefty might actually do more harm than good, Tom sets out to find Lefty and bring him back before he gets himself into more trouble than he can handle.

Lefty’s conviction convinces Tom to join the hunt for the Senator’s killer.  They, with the aid of a boy (Diego Josef) who has grown up idolizing stories of outlaws and the people who bring them to justice, and is a dang good shooter, manage to hunt the killer down.

This movie is about justice:   what justice means, who decides, and what happens when you betray people who think you are their friend.  It is a tale of loyalty and friendship, during a time when laying down your life for what you believed in was a common thing.  It is a tale of people who must decide whether to put themselves or others…. first.

The movie is successful on many accounts, with a solid lead performance by Bill Pullman.  It is a simple story, told from the perspective of a simple, not perfect, but not to be undersestimated, “old man” as Lefty calls himself.  It is about sincerity of purpose, and knowing, who your friends are and who they are not.

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