The revenge storyline in westerns is as old as the films themselves. Ranging from The Outlaw Josey Wales to Young Guns this idea has been used as a primary plot inspiration many times. So when a new film treads this well worn trail to redemption it needs to do so carefully.
Sweetwater from director Logan Miller primarily tells the story of Sarah Ramirez (January Jones), an ex-prostitute who has turned her back on that life to settle down with her farmer husband Miguel (Eduardo Noriega) to raise a family and grow crops. The problem they have is obviously in their decision making in that their neighbour is Jason Isaacs in full scenery chewing mode as murderous preacher Prophet Josiah. This questionable man of God appears to have the local townsfolk firmly under control so that when Miguel questions Josiahís authority he is quickly despatched to the other side without a flicker of concern from anyone except his late wife.
Thrown into the mix is Sheriff Jackson (Ed Harris) who arrives to investigate some earlier murders and who immediately sets upon a collision course with Josiah that can surely only end one way. When Sarah discovers her husbandís murder she vows revenge against the men who caused it. With all this taken into account Sweetwater should be a good film but it simply isnít.
The main problems relate to the script and in the direction. As the story is such a simple one the writers have tried too hard to add other elements to it rather than tell their tale well. There are scenes with Ed Harrisí Sheriff dancing around the prairie at dusk presumably to make him appear eccentric and strange. At other times Josiah is seen having sex with his multiple wives in rotation which adds nothing to his character and comes across simply as gratuitous.
The violence when it comes is brutal but falls short of being genuinely frightening as there is little emotion or terror in the deaths. All these factors I suspect were introduced to create a strange, twisting tale but just seem out of place. The direction unfortunately can only be described as routine. There are the standard, whimsical shots of wide open plains and distant hills but while conveying something of the isolation of the characters it offers very little to the narrative. There is also a distinct lack of tension.
Despite the number of deaths and the wantonness of the characterís actions there is never a point where you feel any suspense or intrigue; revenge is taken as matter of factly as simply going to the shops. The performances are good in that they appear to convey what the director has requested of them but none of the characters are empathetic at all and there is little interest in whether they live or die.
Ultimately Sweetwater is a dull film with some decent performances that would have been better elsewhere. There is nothing particular interesting here and Iím sure it will slip from the memory very quickly.