Dust (2001) — Two disappointing movies in one

“Heads, I go first. Tails, you go second.”

Sue’s rating: Open mouth, insert soap.

Sue’s review: Every so often, I troll around our forum’s list of recommended movies. You never know when inspiration might strike and we do like to make our regular readers happy. Lo and behold, there was a very brief synopsis of Dust there. Hmm… western movie. David “Faramir” Wenham. Golly, let me think about this for 2.5 seconds. Netflix, here we go!

Consider me disappointed.

Dust actually encapsulates two stories — one a modern day standoff between a down on his luck potty-mouthed robber and an equally potty-mouthed decrepit old woman, and the other the tale of two cowboy brothers with competitively vested interests in a lady of eminently negotiable affection. The latter is presented as part flashback and part fantasy as told by the characters in the former. Did that make sense?

Just in case the viewer can’t tell which story is being addressed (like for instance, by the actual characters appearing on screen at the time, duh), the film of the cowboys — particularly near the beginning — veers between grainy black and white, old style sepia tones and occasionally normal color. It’s sort of cool if you don’t look too closely at the sepia-tinted vomit. Sepia-tinted vomit is maybe even grosser than the day-glo yellow bodily fluids that aren’t urine in Sin City. I’m sorry, I hope no one was eating lunch while reading this. This is my problem. I’m sure this is an interesting little story. The thing is, between the over-the-top violence and the constant dropping of the F-bomb, I sort of got distracted by my perpetual disgust.

It’s not that I’m a prude. The days are long past that I’d swoon at an obscenity or spattering gore. (Trust me, if you’ve ever been head butted by a horse that ripped its face off on a fence post, you’re basically immune from spattering gore from that point on.) It’s just that I feel very strongly that such things should be used sparingly to maximize their effectiveness. It’s sort of the difference between the dog pooping in the living room and walking into a barn full of incontinent goats. Doggie-doo is guaranteed to get my complete and undivided attention, but a cubic ton of nanny-berries is just… a load of crap.

The violence in Dust is so prolonged and repetitive, that it couldn’t hold my interest no matter how much fake blood gushed out of various unfortunate and perforated extras. I lost count of the battle scenes but it really didn’t matter because they were all basically the same. In fact, in the interest of time, I was fast-forwarding my way through them by the second half of the movie. Never a good sign.

As though all that wasn’t already enough to sour the cream in my coffee, the characters didn’t actually work for me either. Brothers Luke and Elijah are individually an unrepentant self-serving jerk and a Bible-quoting psychotic. The elderly Angela is more or less a disgusting old baggage, and the robber dude, ironically named Edge (ironically because I never noticed that he had one), elicits no sympathy from me even when he’s getting his thumbs snapped like twigs. Serve him right, the lowlife.

Anyway, if you’re really into spurting blood, slaughtered livestock, hails of bullets and the occasional decapitation, this is the movie for you. If you’d like a bit of plot with your mayhem, move along.

Didja notice?

  • One of the horses was wearing extra wide aluminum shoes. Not too likely for the Balkans in the early 1900s.
  • Etched on Luke’s pistol: “Gospel According to Luke”
  • There is a wanton destruction of sheep in this film. Oh yeah, and of people.
  • Near the end of the first big shoot out, Luke crouches on the ground with the barrels of his pistols shoved down in the dirt. This probably isn’t good for pistols… or realistically, the gunman.
  • First reference to Kemal Ataturk I’ve heard since Monty Python’s skit about a fish named Eric.
  • Luke must have had a few dozen extra gallons of blood in his veins. Otherwise I don’t think this movie would have lasted longer than fifteen minutes or so.
  • If this is supposed to be a two-fold story of redemption, why do I get the feeling that everyone in it is going to end up in aitch-ee-double-toothpicks?

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