Arts Express: Sweetwater Movie Review

Now while it’s unfair to cite a person’s age as detrimental to making movies, someone who is a mere twenty-one years old and whose most recent reputed claim to fame is playing ‘Kid at Party’ in The Bling Ring, would appear to be stretching it a bit. Or to put it more than mildly, it would seem that an aspiring moviemaker would have to experience life a little, before venturing into depicting and making sense of it on screen.

Which about sums up the impression you may come away with, from actor turned writer/director Logan Miller’s rowdy and raucous when not persistently tongue in cheek Sweetwater. With a title that irreverently conjures anything but, this somewhat Tarantino-derivative revisionist western boasts a prominent cast, doing extremely bad when not prankish and even silly things. Which tends to make one wonder what stars like January Jones, Ed Harris and Jason Isaacs – similar to their wilderness characters struggling to survive on the punishing remote plains – are even doing in this peculiar movie.

Sweetwater stars January Jones as Sarah, a former prostitute turned pioneer wife out on the nearly barren New Mexico plains in the late 1800’s. When her husband Miguel (Eduardo Noreiga) is murdered by the dreaded local religious extremist minister, Prophet Josiah (Jason Isaacs) and his psychopathic posse, Sarah turns petticoat attired avenger. As she rids the town and surrounding countryside of a variety of male maniacs and sleazeballs. Which essentially means just about every man around. Save for the newly arrived Sheriff Jackson (Ed Harris), a homicidal lunatic as well, but with a partial affinity to notions of right and wrong.

Which is not to say that Sweetwater doesn’t have inspired moments of wild wit, heady heartland humor and sobering social satire touching on religious fanaticism in particular, though intermingled with SNL style flaky slapstick. But like a pot of stew in which the ingredients have simply been tossed around in there and not fired up to a simmering savory brew, the whole never quite reaches a point of consolidating the raw sum of its random parts.

Sweetwater is out on DVD this week from Arc Entertainment.

To see the trailer of Sweetwater:

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.