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Movie review: ‘Sweetwater’


Director: Logan Miller

Cast: Ed Harris, Jason Isaacs, January Jones

Rated: R (strong violence, strong language, some sexual content and graphic nudity)

Running time: 95 min.

Posted 5:08pm on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013

Sometimes a movie comes along that may be flawed but has enough going for it that it deserves more exposure than being dumped into a few theaters while coming out simultaneously on video on demand.

Such is the case with Sweetwater, a Western revenge saga with a noteworthy cast -- Ed Harris, January Jones, Jason Isaacs, Eduardo Noriega, country star Jason Aldean -- and a striking sense of place. That it goes off the rails occasionally doesn’t stop it from being a mostly enjoyable ride.

The time is the late 1800s and the setting is northern New Mexico, somewhere between Tucumcari and Santa Fe, where Prophet Josiah (Isaacs), a polygamous religious cult leader, is at odds with hard-scrabble rancher neighbor Miguel (Noriega) and his wife Sarah (Jones). Josiah wants Sarah for his harem and is not above killing someone to get his way.

That’s established early when Josiah guns down two trespassers on his property, not believing that one of them was related to the governor as he had claimed. But when Sheriff Jackson (a theatrical Harris) arrives in town at the governor’s request looking for the two, Josiah -- who is in collusion with local businessmen -- realizes the paradise he has built for himself far from civilization could collapse.

The characters’ rising suspicions about each other give the film a palpable tension. Never mind the occasional spasm of overacting from Harris or the strange lack of personality from Jones who doesn’t really convey the rage of a woman who could be driven to murder. But if you’ve ever wanted to see the woman from Mad Men wield a weapon, here’s your chance.

Director Logan Miller, who co-wrote with Noah Miller, isn’t exactly subtle -- Josiah is Manifest Destiny personified -- and the tone veers from serious to satire. But there’s enough here, along with the cinematography from Brad Shield, to make Sweetwater worth a taste.

Exclusive: AMC Valley View, Dallas; and on video on demand

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