THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN (2017)
Written and Directed by Jared Moshe
When newly appointed Senator Eddie Johnson is shot dead by rustlers, his longtime friend and loyal sidekick Lefty Brown vows to find the men responsible. Joined on his quest by teenage cowboy Jeremiah, Lefty must risk his life and overcome all obstacles in his way to bring the culprit to justice.
Western THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN shows that there’s life in the old genre yet with actor Bill Pullman putting in a performance of a lifetime as bumbling but goodhearted and loyal cowboy Lefty Brown. Peter Fonda initially takes the reins as lead cowboy Eddie Johnson who’s all set to move to Washington with his wife to begin his new role as senator. With Eddie’s wishes, Lefty is to be left in charge of the ranch, much to the objections of Eddie’s wife Laura who thinks that Lefty is too simple to run a ranch. Despite his failings, Lefty is as loyal as they come and when Eddie is shot dead whilst they’re both out attempting to catch the rustlers stealing cattle, Lefty feels responsible for not having his back. Promising Laura that he’ll find Eddie’s killer, Lefty sets off alone in the dusty landscape of Montana but it isn’t long before he gets a sidekick of his own in the shape of optimistic young cowboy, Jeremiah. Along the way, Lefty bumps into an old acquaintance in US Marshall Tom Harrah with whom he and Eddie used to ride with along with Jimmy Bierce, now Governor of Montana. Back at the ranch, Jimmy is helping Laura keep ownership of her husband’s property as she looks to bury her husband and find those responsible for his death.
It’s nice to see a sidekick like Lefty, who had no-one believe in him except for Eddie, find himself the centre piece and driving force of this tale. Forced from out of Eddie’s shadow, Lefty has to prove he’s more than what people perceive he is and that there was nothing he could do in preventing Eddie’s death, he himself being injured in the attack. Lefty becomes a hero in his own right with his quest for justice, his heart not only brave but compassionate too as he takes teenager Jeremiah under his wing. However, it seems to mostly everyone else that Lefty is a joke or at least not worth mentioning at all. Despite serving as Eddie’s loyal partner for 40 years, he seems to be invisible or treated as a joke. As Jeremiah fawns over Lefty’s tales of Eddie and realises his book of heroic cowboy tales are about Eddie, Tom and Jimmy, Lefty is disappointed to find that his name is missing from the illustrated stories. As a viewer, we can see that Lefty, though not the sharpest tool in the shed, is the glue that bound the team together and actually, without Lefty, their exploits may not have been as successful as they were. This overlooked hero makes Lefty a empathetic character and it’s so easy to root for him and wish him well on his journey to capture his best friend’s killer. His loyalty is admirable and I’m sure everyone watching hopes they could have someone like Lefty in their life, watching their back.
With THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN, writer and director Jared Moshe has captured a simple yet captivating premise evoking all the westerns of bygone years in this wonderfully crafted, beautifully shot western. From the ranch to the local town, it feels as though it’s a living, breathing world with Bill Pullman leading the way in a role that seems made for him. He encompasses all the charm and keeps viewers engaged whilst co-stars Tommy Flanagan (Braveheart, Sons of Anarchy), Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands) and Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ) play important supporting characters that Lefty can bounce off of. With such a strong cast, including Diego Josef as teenage cowboy Jeremiah, it’s hard not to like this film. Even the supporting characters have standout personalities of their own, such as Kathy Baker who sizzles as fiesty widow Laura Johnson whilst Tommy Flanagan simmers as recovering alcoholic Tom. The characters, the costumes, the location – everything seems to have been brought together perfectly to create this impressive homage.
A western for the modern times, THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN will appeal to audiences new and old.