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The Dead Don’t Hurt         review by Bobby Blakey

They just don’t make as many westerns worth checking out as they used to. They are typically straight to home release, low budget and not all that great. Every so often you end up with one that hits all the right marks. In 2020 Viggo Mortensen stepped behind the camera to direct his first film Falling and now getting back into the director’s chair for his western The Dead Don’t Hurt which he also wrote and stars in. The film co-stars Vicky Krieps, Solly McLeod, Garret Dillahunt, Ray McKinnon and Danny Huston, but does it bring something good to the western genre or will it fail to survive the wild west?

The Dead Don’t Hurt follows star-crossed lovers on the western U.S. frontier in the 1860s. Vivienne Le Coudy is a fiercely independent woman who embarks on a relationship with Danish immigrant Holger Olsen. After meeting Olsen in San Francisco, she agrees to travel with him to his home near the quiet town of Elk Flats, Nevada, where they start a life together. The outbreak of the civil war separates them when Olsen makes a fateful decision to fight for the Union. This leaves Vivienne to fend for herself in a place controlled by corrupt Mayor Rudolph Schiller and his unscrupulous business partner, powerful rancher Alfred Jeffries. Alfred’s violent, wayward son Weston aggressively pursues Vivienne, who is determined to resist his unwanted advances. When Olsen returns from the war, he and Vivienne must confront and make peace with the person each has become.

Going into this film it leads you to believe that it is a tale of revenge, but there is a lot more here than I expected. The revenge ideal is here, but it is a small aspect to the bigger element. It is a slow-paced story that manages to pull you in as you live through these people’s lives in these harsh times.

Despite the lack of gunfights, I still found myself enjoying it more than I thought I would and most thanks to Mortensen himself. His performance is

stoic and nuanced, bringing the perfect amount of pain, love and perseverance to bring this character and his story to life.

On the other side of this same journey is Vicky Krieps who really shoulders more of the load with Mortensen’s Olsen off at war for some time. She deals with all the hardships, abuse and struggles to survive in so many ways when left on her own and gives a great performance to bring it all to the surface. There is a bond between Olsen and Le Coudy that is initially sweet, but the realities of their lives and the burdens that eventually come forward show a true test of it all.

The film does get a little confusing at times with the story bouncing back and forth in time, but if you stick with it all of it works. There were some pacing issues at times for me, but never something that hurt the overall film. The payoff at the end wasn’t as exciting as you might hope for, but there is a realism to it that just works with the rest of the film. I was pleasantly surprised with not only the film, but Mortensen’s skill behind the camera as well as in front. I look forward to seeing what else he has up his sleeve in the future.

Decide for yourself and check out The Dead Don’t Hurt in theaters on May 31st from Shout! Studios.

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