Fair warning before you see “Let Him Go:” Part of it takes place in Montana. And its director, Thomas Bezuca (“Big Eden”) isn’t from Montana. You will constantly be reminded of those facts as the screen drowns you in country drawls, rustic family diners and some old-fashioned “Aw, shucks, why don’t you come down to the ranch sometime?” feels.
This pandering takes some getting used to, as does the first half of “Let Him Go.” The frustratingly slow pace made me wonder if Rotten Tomatoes made a typo when it labeled the film a thriller. But once that second half kicks in, audiences will wake up to exhilarating action and gut-punching family drama.
Ranchers Margaret and George Blackledge (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, respectively) have just lost their son (Ryan Bruce) in a horse-riding accident. Their daughter-in-law, Lorna (Kayli Carter), remarries into an abusive relationship, and soon she and her son are in the clutches of the infamous Weboy family. When the clan takes them to their home base in Nebraska, Margaret and George set out on a road trip to get their family back, by any means necessary.
And when I say road trip, I mean the kind where your iPad’s dead, your siblings are fighting and there’s still six hours to go. At least, that’s what the first hour of the Blackledge’s journey feels like. The couple literally and figuratively take too many detours, making pit stops and meeting new faces that won’t contribute to the plot, if at all, until your bladder gives up. Lane and Costner’s sophisticated performances are slight remedies, especially when many of the actors they stumble into look like they got straight C’s in acting school.
But just when you’re wondering if it’s too late to catch the bus and finish that ethics paper you keep putting off, “Let Him Go” introduces you to its antagonists, the Weboy family. Their leader, Blanche (Leslie Manville), is the kick-ass villain I haven’t seen on the screen in years. She relishes every evil deed and one-liner on screen, making for a blood-thirsty foe pulled straight from a Quentin Tarantino flick.
Fortunately, she’s not the only thing carrying the second half. Some late-game, tear-jerking scenes may help the audience build a more intimate connection with the Blackledge couple’s deep history of grief. Maybe they’ll realize the slow scenes early on were meant to establish the loving relationship between Margaret and George, and make them give a shit about the rescue.
If not, who cares? The gun fights are awesome!
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