Review by Sean Boelman
Although the idea of seeing Kevin Costner in a neo-Western is sure to be an exciting prospect for any cinephile, Thomas Bezucha’s new film Let Him Go, his first in nine years, isn’t the project it promises to be. Suffering from a basic premise and a lack of narrative momentum, it feels woefully stagnant in a way that is consistently underwhelming.
Based on Larry Watson’s novel of the same name, the movie follows a retired sheriff and his wife who set out to rescue their grandson from his ruthless other grandparents. Weaving family melodrama into a kidnapping thriller, it all too often feels like Bezucha is emphasizing the wrong parts of the story.
The most interesting parts of the film are those in which the movie is exploring a feud between the two main families, but they result in little more than two straightforward action sequences that have little emotional effect. Ultimately, the biggest issue here is that the stakes aren’t established early enough, so by the time things actually begin to get wild, audience’s won’t care anymore.
Additionally, the characters in the film are so flat and shallow that the movie fails to resonate. The idea of an older lawman having to go against the principles he practiced for most of his life to do the right thing is nothing new, and this story adds nothing to the formula. As for the antagonists, they are simply evil, without any real justification as to their actions apart from the fact that they are mindlessly and relentlessly defensive of their bloodline.
Even more disappointing is the fact that the real victims in this scenario, the protagonist’s daughter-in-law and grandson, are barely given a voice. This could have been a meaningful examination of domestic abuse, but instead turns into something much more conventional, a hollow revenge thriller with no real purpose.
Costner is great in a role that feels written for him, and his co-star Diane Lane does an excellent job. The supporting cast is excellent too, with good turns from Jeffrey Donovan, Will Brittain, and standout Lesley Manville, who is unbelievably intimidating as the vicious matriarch. In fact, the quality of the performances is almost too good for the script.
The film is also rather impressive in a visual sense. The atmosphere that Bezucha is able to build is solid and builds some tension despite the story severely lacking in vitality. And the climactic sequence is shot wonderfully, showing promise of the brutal thriller that this should have been, not the dull one that it is.
Let Him Go hopes to milk thrills out of a basic premise and some good performances, but it is far too simple to be even somewhat memorable. It’s such a shame to see this cast put to waste on what is basically a glorified B-movie.
Let Him Go hits theaters on November 6.