The Dark Valley | Chicago Reader

The Dark Valley

114 minutes 2014

This handsomely filmed but self-consciously grim German western (2014) aims for classical grandeur, but some B-movie modesty would have benefited its by-the-numbers revenge plot. An American photographer (Sam Riley of Control) arrives in a small village in the Austrian Alps, which sets the stage for conflict with an aging, tyrannical patriarch and his sadistic sons. Riley gives a sensitive performance as the iconic stranger, but director Andreas Prochaska (a TV veteran who has edited some of Michael Haneke’s work) shows less assurance with his film’s relentlessly brooding tone. Conspicuous symbolism that might have worked with an edge of dark wit falls flat here: a metronome motif reminds one that the photographer is a ticking time bomb, and a crucifixion is only the most obvious of the biblical references. It all comes across as strained, derivative, and humorless. In German with subtitles.

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