Here at RAM, we’re big fans of Dayton, Ohio based indie-director Henrique Couto. We previously looked at (and greatly enjoyed) his Babysitter Massacre and Scarewaves. Those two films are horror, but Couto is nothing if not versatile. The tireless director has also lensed dramatic-comedy (Depression: The Movie) and family films (A Bulldog for Christmas). With his latest, Calamity Jane’s Revenge, Couto changes gears yet again and turns to the Western.
The film opens appropriately with a Morricone-esque score, replete with tolling of the bells for the deceased. A posse chases after a bandit named Milagro, played by the director himself in a fun cameo. Milagro gives the posse the slip, but has the misfortune of running into Calamity Jane, who grills him as to the whereabouts of a bandit named Lemonade. She then punches his lights out, places a noose around his neck which is attached to his horse, then sets the equine free.
Couto regular Erin R. Ryan plays the American frontierswoman. She’s looking to avenge those responsible for the death of her husband, the infamous gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok. Of course, Calamity Jane is no slouch at the quickdraw herself, and her reputation follows her.
Calamity Jane’s Revenge is, in essence, a revenge flick, with the titular gunslinger slowly making her way through those that were involved with Hickok’s death. And woe to anyone that tries to stop her. One such soon to be unfortunate is Dan Hagen, a dastardly fellow with a kidnapped woman in tow. Jane makes short work of Hagen and frees the woman, Fay, who insists on remaining by Jane’s side. Not keen on the idea of a traveling companion, Jane initially sends Fay on her way but eventually warms to her and trains Fay in the ways of the gun.
No outlaw/revenge story would be complete without a lawman trying to intercede, and here it’s Deadwood sheriff Stapleton, tracking Jane along with Colorado Charlie Utter (in real-life Western lore, Utter was friends with both Hickok and Jane) played more than ably by professional wrestler Al Snow.
Calamity Jane’s Revenge looks fantastic. Sweeping overhead shots of frontier-like vistas provide the right atmosphere for this low-budget film. The characters look and speak period-appropriate, and while the film doesn’t have Unforgiven-type money, it still feels like a Western.
Ryan stands tall in the saddle as Calamity Jane. Seriously, this girl is a star, and she is more than up to the task of carrying the film. With charisma and presence to spare, Ryan is the real deal.
Other elements of the film are not quite as successful. While I can appreciate the artistic decision, as a fan of the grittier type of oater helmed by the likes of Leone and Corbucci, some more blood would have lent the film a bit more verisimilitude. An arterial spray is not needed, but the fact that every kill was accompanied by a cutaway was a bit distracting. The pacing too proved to be a little slow at times.
Overall, Calamity Jane’s Revenge is an honorable effort from Couto. While not as successful as the director’s prior films, it’s great to see indie-directors taking chances and deviating from the tried-and-true horror genre. As such, Calamity Jane’s Revenge is worth saddling up for, even if it’s more of a place than an outright win.
**1/2 (out of five)