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Overall Rating
3

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look: 22.22%
Average: 16.67%
Pretty Bad33.33%
Total Crap: 11.11%

1 review, 12 user ratings


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Westender
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by Chris Parry

"Ten points for ambition and ingenuity.. but not such a great movie."
2 stars

A first time feature film director decides that he's going to make a middle ages period piece, full of action and sprawling vistas, olde age costumes and intense internal drama... on a low budget. What would your advice be to such an ambitious soul? Personally, I'd have said, "Fella, lay off the crack. A movie like this would cost you a million at least, if not ten." That Brock Morse received plenty of advice such as mine and still went out and made his film, is a testimony to the size of his balls, the steel in his spine and the stubborn streak evident in his character. No question, Mr Morse knows how to rally the troops and get things done on the cheap. Unfortunately, the result of all that rallying, Westender, is little more than a video business card for the man in question. And a long one at that.

When I was visiting Seattle in 2003 for the Seattle International Film Festival, I managed to see two weeks worth of great movies, one after another, all of them managing to reach an almost hideously good standard of quality. so I called up my roommate and said, "Yo Debbers, you've got to come down here and catch a flick. It's been awesome." Impressionable to a fault, Debbers arrived for the last weekend of the fest and caught precisely one flick - Westender. Let's just say it took a few drinks for me to shut her up about having wasted her Saturday night.

Which isn't to say that Westender is the worst film you'll see - far from it. It's sumptuously filmed, intensely performed, a veritable cornucopia of demonstrations of what a smart guy with no budget can do with a video camera, some renaissance fair enthusiasts and the outstanding natural scenery of the state of Oregon. Morse manages to capture imagery that makes you forget the script and think "ooooh." He pulls off an atmosphere of wartime in the middle ages with nothing more than trees, homemade costumes, plastic armor, the occasional horse-drawn cart, and a handful of clearly blunt swords. And he takes a whole lot of people who've never acted before and makes it only marginally obvious that... well, they've never acted before.

These are all strong points, and make Westender worth a look if you're a student of filmmaking. Where it all goes to hell in a horse hair handbasket is the storyline. Morse may well know his way around a storyboard, but he clearly needs to remember that the story in that word is more important than the board... or bored, as the case may be.

Lord Asbury of Westender (Blake Stadel, though he could be Bill Pullman's younger brother) is an old drunken former military hero who has just gambled away his ring - a trinket of extreme sentimental value. Awakened from a booze-soaked slumber, he goes apeshit when he learns the ring is gone, and heads out determined to track down the thief. Only, the man in question turns out to be no thief, but rather a jester, who has lost all of his worldly possessions escaping from a band of brigands. The missing items, which he has no intention of retrieving, include Westender's ring. Thus begins a trek to find the bad guys, with a tied-up jester in tow, through rocks and deserts and woods and all sorts of peril.

While all that may sound like a great tale, the potential of the story is never lived up to, with the best character in the script - the Jester - getting written out early, while the terminally silent and internally troubled Westender sulks and broods and starves and stumbles and curses his way through nearly two hours of orchestral score. What's worse is that the film feels like it's half an hour longer than that.

It should be said that I met Morse a few times during the Seattle festival and he struck me not only as a genuinely great guy, but a great guy that has no trouble surrounding himself with willing soldiers prepared to do whatever it takes to get a film made for next to no money. If he can take the positives from this film experience and parlay them into something that really needs to be made, rather than something that he wants to get made, he could well end up making his second film the kind of outing that opens wide and is well remembered by audiences.

I hope he does. But Westender, for all it's achievements, is little more than an example of why it's important to make a film when the script is ready, not just because the director is.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11358&reviewer=1
originally posted: 12/13/04 12:55:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/02/11 Bob Morgret Awesome movie wish their was a sequel but jester could of done alot more he was cool! 5 stars
3/16/11 Jack Parsons This movie Fuckin rocks...it's a shame they didn't get the recognition. I 5 stars
11/28/10 Jeff Richardson Not a single piece of plastic armor on that set - and not all the weapons were blunt. 3 stars
10/29/07 asstchief708 It feels like a pilot plot for a cable television series. Wish the story line was more 4 stars
7/17/07 Jill G This would have been an awesome movie! If only they'd bother to explain what was going on!! 3 stars
5/20/07 Kacenka Ranks amongst the worst movies I've ever seen!! 1 stars
11/09/06 Jason Low budget, high worth! 4 stars
8/23/06 Newton C Braga Too long,scenes are slow and with many loose ends,but there's a sense of greatness.Curious. 3 stars
11/12/05 Nate Betts Oh .... My ... God! This movie would make great toilet paper. 1 stars
6/09/05 Therese Hedgecoth Morse has excellent fight with (Snyder?) Horseman in this film, great action on horseback. 4 stars
6/08/05 James Dearing a "diamond in the rough" (quote from Aladdin) 5 stars
3/08/05 Joey Samaniego Good work for what it is. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Jun-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 14-Dec-2004

UK
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Australia
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