Butchers Crossing 2023 480p WEB-DL x264
Unceremoniously dropped on Amazon Prime with no real fanfare, this Western odyssey bares similarities to Joseph Conrad's 'Heart Of Darkness' (except without all the racism) and has a connection to Francis Ford Coppola's take on that material, 'Apocalypse Now (1979)', in that it also features a depiction (or several) of a bison being killed and butchered. 'Butcher's Crossing (2023)' has an additional connection with another film, that one being the Coen brothers' 'Miller's Crossing (1990)': not only goes it have the word "crossing" in the title, but its pseudo Kurtz stand-in (portrayed by Nic Cage) just so happens to be called Miller. "Alright, Mr. IMDb Trivia, get on with it," you're probably thinking. To that I say, "okay." There's something that just feels unfinished about the film, specifically when it comes to its editing, sound mixing and colour grading. The former is mostly successful, making good use of montages and other non-linear techniques to create a purposefully elusive and unsettling atmosphere, but there's something almost intangibly off about it and it could have been tightened up with another pass to really hammer its dream-like nature home. The audio mix is notably incorrect on occasion as it straight-up clips during some of the infrequent yelling that occurs; it's a pretty major technical problem that contributes to the picture's sort of amateurish vibe. The cinematography isn't bad, but it often feels like we're looking at raw dailies. It doesn't have its own feel to it, and any semblance of naturalism is counteracted by its flat and uninspired appearance. Another problem with the feature is that its apparent conversationalist messaging is only really evident during its text ending, which uses statistics and real-life imagery to decry the extensive hunting its characters so eagerly partake in elsewhere in the piece. It feels quite random for the film to end on such a blatant anti-hunting note when its majority makes no real attempt to demonise the act, instead depicting it in quite a bit of detail (there is a lot of animal killing and butchery in this, which is something to be wary of going in) and positioning its characters' potential descent into madness not through their barbaric actions but rather through their isolation and unwillingness to cut their losses. Where the affair mostly succeeds is in its general tone and semi-surreal atmosphere. Although it's a bit too front-loaded for its own good, the narrative is mostly compelling and the direction often takes an unexpected route to convey the feeling of a particular segment, rather than the unfiltered truth of it. There's this hard-to-pinpoint nightmarish quality to a lot of it, and a sense of dread slowly builds right from the start. You're never quite sure where it's going to go, which is yet another of its most potent strengths. The solid performances really ground the experience and lend it a sense of truth, while the sparse set design and tangible costuming makes sure you don't doubt the period setting for a single second. There are some genuinely stunning vistas here, instantly iconic snapshots of the American landscape that are synonymous with the bloodstained Manifest Destiny of the era and therefore carry their own sense of ideological danger alongside their undeniable beauty (not to mention the fact that they could kill you in an instant). A couple of its environments are clearly recreated on a green-screen soundstage and they do yank you out of the otherwise solid verisimilitude, but far more are real and tactile and plain gorgeous to look at. There is a lot to like about the piece and it draws you into its earthy narrative relatively early on. While it can't keep you glued to the edge of your seat and it's technical issues do prevent it from feeling fully polished, it remains mostly engaging for its majority. It gets a bit repetitive in its midsection and the pacing is a little off in places, but it's a solid effort that's rather entertaining overall.
- Nicolas Cage
- Fred Hechinger
- Jeremy Bobb