Plot: What’s it about?
For those with a thirst for westerns, look no further than Murder at Yellowstone City. It is certainly a well-made and competent film even if the script and plot tend to lag. It is one of those films that’s easy to admire, but hard to give it more than that. The heart is there and it is clearly a passion project for those involved, but lacks the tension the story needs to fully succeed.
It is 1881 in Montana and Yellowstone City is going through hard times. Things may be looking up as Robert Dunnigan (Zach McGowan) discovers some gold. Dunnigan’s fortune runs out, however as he is murdered. There is a prime suspect in Cicero (Isaiah Mustafa) who is a former slave. His one potential saving grace is in a pastor/mortician named Thaddeus Murphy (Thomas Jane) who takes the investigation into his own hands. All this might sound thrilling and exciting, but unfortunately, Murder is often a sluggish film to sit through and never has the intrigue its premise all but promises. It isn’t an awful film by any means, but one that seems in no hurry to get to the intended destination.
The visuals and filming locations certainly help add to the film and cast is top notch. It is just maybe I expected more of a mystery in a western setting. The film unfortunately fails to kick into high gear much of the time. With a tighter narrative and more focus on one thing it might’ve fared better than the result. As it stands, this is only a sporadically entertaining western.
Video: How’s it look?
With an appropriately wide 2.39:1 transfer, the images here are what I think to be the biggest selling point. I am a big fan of nice western visuals, and this is no exception. Details and colors are all strong and accurate, there’s a clean yet natural look to this transfer. All told, the visuals are top notch here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track, while not quite as strong as the visuals is still a good one. Vocal range and clarity are a plus and the surrounding channels kick in when they’re called to do so. It isn’t the best track for a western I’ve heard, but it does enough right.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Featuring the Director, Writer, and a few of the actors, this is a decent track, but it is filled with a bit too much praise as well. Fans may want to give it a listen, though.
- The Making of Murder at Yellowstone City – With only 4 minutes and change as its disposal, don’t expect too much here. Key members from the cast and crew have some stuff too say, but it’s nothing terribly insightful.
- Deleted Scenes – Six scenes are presented, some are unfinished, but none are essential to the film.
The Bottom Line
Perhaps expectations are what lessened the experience here for me. By no means a bad film, just a sluggish one. I admired the visuals, and the story is strong, but the execution needed work. For western purists, it may be worth a rental. All others should seek stronger material.