Sadly, the classic western has all but diminished from the current cinematic landscape. Even if a meager few did manage to crop up, they most likely wouldn’t be able to gage what makes a memorable cowboy tale. Loyalty, justice, open plains, a sidearm at the ready and pride to a fault are just a few of the staples of iconic horse carrying stories of the past. Fortunately it seems like Director Jared Moshe went to the Clint Eastwood school of western filmmaking, as his ambiance-ridden outing "Dead Man’s Burden" is a throwback to all the things that made the genre notable in the first place – it carries the John Ford seal of approval.
After slaving away on family land, Martha Kirkland and her husband Heck find a way out – they gun down Martha’s dad. They then prep for the sale of the land, but her long lost and estranged brother Wade rolls on into town curious about the events of late. And even though he was not on speaking terms with his father, Wade becomes increasingly inquisitive about his death and becomes determined to catch the culprit.
The description is purposefully short and unimportant here, as the audience knows the initial event and those involved right from frame one. On a substandard flick knowing such info upfront would normally be death, but in the case of "Dead Man’s Burden" it’s a device cleverly used to wrack up the tension. So the marriage of it with a flick so steeped in tension, scope and authentic western flair makes for one sharp shooting movie that earns its place next to reflective works like "Unforgiven." Director Moshe makes sure every detail is picture perfect, from the glorious settings to the killer casting (love seeing Richard “Jump to Conclusions Mat” Riehle as the sassy Three Penny Hank!) – it all works to build the world within. Clare Bowen also shines as the lovely and emotionally torn Martha and David Call is proficiently smarmy as her bitter husband, but it’s the work of Barlow Jacobs as the weary Wade that shows the best of the west. As a tough, skilled, gritty and yet apprehensive gunman, Jacobs embodies all things Eastwood, Leoni and Ford in every nuanced movement – the good, the bad and the ugly rolled into one.
With its calculated slow pace, "Dead Man’s Burden" will not be everyone’s cup of good morning America. But for those who remember and appreciate what made us love the westerns of old, it’s a tip of the hat to the finest of their wares. This one carries the burden of a lot of great past work – and delivers.
Title: "Dead Man’s Burden"
Cast: Barlow Jacobs, Clare Bowen, David Call, Richard Riehle
Director: Jared Moshe
Running Time: 93 Minutes
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