Let Him Go

★★★★

I’m generally a Kevin Costner fan and/or apologist. “Field of Dreams” is one of my top 15 favorite movies of all-time. Many of his flicks transfixed me as a kid – “The Untouchables,” “Bull Durham,” “Dances with Wolves,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “JFK” – and still do as an adult. “A Perfect World” is one of Clint Eastwood’s most underrated directorial efforts and Costner does some of the best work of his career playing the personification of cool. I dig “Waterworld” to a degree (Dennis Hopper’s super-fun in it) and even defend “The Postman” (How can you hate a movie that co-stars Tom Petty and features the very talented Larenz Tate as a character named Ford Lincoln Mercury?). As far as I’m concerned Costner’s pretty much three-for-three as a director – “Open Range” is a banger of an old school Western. Hell, I even liked his turn as the villainous illegitimate son of Elvis Presley in the much-maligned “3000 Miles to Graceland.”

One of the only times I’ve ever been terribly turned off by Costner was when my wife and I saw he and his band Modern West at the Indiana State Fair back in 2013. Admittedly, the group was pretty decent, but his stage repartee left much to be desired – “We met in the dark – you in the audience; me on the silver screen.” Kinda douche-y, dude! Costner also referred to the State Fair as a county fair, which seemed to leave some concertgoers incensed – not me – but some folks. (For the record: I also think “The Bodyguard” blows. People often misconstrue this movie as being good because Whitney Houston’s Dolly Parton cover is so stellar.)

I don’t have nearly as much of a connection to Diane Lane as a filmgoer. I’ve always thought she was lovely. She certainly made an impression early in her career with the Francis Ford Coppola/S.E. Hinton one-two punch of “The Outsiders” and “Rumble Fish” and Walter Hill’s action musical “Streets of Fire.” She later appeared in some truly forgettable action flicks in the mid ‘90s, i.e. “Judge Dredd” and “Murder at 1600.” I remember seeing “Unfaithful” at a dollar theater back in 2002 due to prurient interests on screen and off. The movie didn’t do a whole lot for me, but her performance was good. Much of Lane’s oeuvre could be described this way for me – dug her performance; didn’t dig the picture itself.

Costner and Lane have reteamed for “Let Him Go,” now playing in theaters, after having played Ma and Pa Kent in Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (“Martha!!!”). “Let Him Go” casts the actors as George and Margaret Blackledge. It’s the early ‘60s in Montana. He’s a retired sheriff. She breaks horses. They have a son, James (Ryan Bruce), daughter-in-law, Lorna (Kayli Carter, seen earlier this year in “Bad Education”) and grandson, Jimmy (played by twins Bram and Otto Hornung). Tragedy strikes and James is killed under mysterious circumstances in a riding accident.

Flash forward a coupla years and Lorna remarries – the fella’s name is Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain, Beuter Perkins from Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!”). Donnie’s a bad egg and quickly takes to physically abusing Lorna and Jimmy, which Margaret witnesses firsthand. Donnie then absconds with them to his family’s ranch in North Dakota without so much as a word to George and Margaret. The grandparents are quickly in pursuit of Donnie and their kin with every intention of bringing the boy home. They befriend a native boy named Peter Dragswolf (Booboo Stewart) and run into roadblocks in the form of Donnie’s mother, Blanche (Mike Leigh and “Phantom Thread” vet Leslie Manville), and uncle, Bill (Jeffrey Donovan), along the way.

“Let Him Go” is an adaptation of Larry Watson’s novel written and directed by Thomas Bezucha (pronounced like the bubblegum or the oft-brandished weapon of ‘80s action movies). Bezucha seems an odd choice to make a dramatic neo-Western thriller after having made the familial Christmas dramedy “The Family Stone” (2005) and the teen girl comedy “Monte Carlo” (2011), but he acquits himself well with the material. It’s slow-moving, character-based, surprisingly violent and sneakily funny. The mountainous scenery is beautifully shot by cinematographer Guy Godfree. The period and regional details are carefully recreated by production designer Trevor Smith, art director Cathy Cowan, set decorator Amber Humphries and costume designer Carol Case. The picture also boasts a beautiful, simplistic score from the always-reliable Michael Giacchino.

There are various styles of acting on display in “Let Him Go.” Costner and Lane play their roles in a subdued fashion and have wonderful chemistry. Manville and Donovan (doing a complete 180 on his recent, likable turn in “Honest Thief”) are BIG ol’ hams playing the most despicable of the despicable and are highly entertaining doing so.

“Let Him Go” seems like it was tailor-made for my folks and in-laws (all hardcore devotees of Costner’s Paramount Network series “Yellowstone”). It’s a film that hasn’t been made much in this era of Marvel, DC and “Star Wars” in that it likely didn’t cost much and is aimed squarely at adults. With where the movie industry’s at right now, I suspect we’ll see more flicks like this in the months and years to come. That ain’t an entirely bad thing.

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