Complete A-Z list

Dead Don't Hurt, The


Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Vicky Krieps, Solly McLeod, Garret Dillahunt, Danny Huston, Colin Morgan, W Earl Brown, John Getz

Director: Viggo Mortensen

Critics gathered together after the preview screening of this very long, slow-moving, elegiac western, trying to make sense of it. Certainly the timeline is bewildering, but if you imagine that not everything you watch is taking place in the present, you might begin to see the light.

Otherwise, this is a realist 'oater' very much in the modern manner, with interiors often shot in semi-darkness, and all very much the brainchild of the craggy Mortensen, who not only stars, but wrote it, co-produced, composed the music, and even played such instruments as piano and banjo on the soundtrack.

That means Viggo can pretty much do what he likes, so he holds facial close-ups a lot, and is so enamoured by the coastal sunset at the end that he keeps it on screen for a couple of minutes, before the roll of more credits than you'd see in a Marvel Studios movie.

To the accompaniment of mournful mountain music, we are introduced to the Danish farmer Olsen, a widower (or is he?) in the wilds of 1860s Nevada, who meets cute with a French-Canadian widow (or is she?) - and they're soon rolling in the hay together. She quickly moves into his cabin, improving it with a woman's touch, before Viggo goes off to the (Civil?) War and Vicky falls foul of a vicious local bully (McLeod), who leaves her, as they say, with child.

Your key to the time progression might lie in Viggo wearing a beard in some scenes, and some not, but then again that may be my imagination. Performances are largely monosyllabic but OK. One critic thought that classic western directors John Ford and Howard Hawks would have loved this one but I've a mind to think that they might have dropped off some time before the end.

David Quinlan

Canada/Mexico 2023. UK Distributor: Signature. Colour (unspecified).
128 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 02 Jun 2024