Hayes (Michael Wincott): Reckon we ought to camp somewheres else?
Carver (Liam Neeson): Afraid the word of God will spoil your digestion?
Hayes: I never was much for scripture.
Carver: Nothing to fear, Mr. Hayes. Them's just words. Ain't no God out here.
At a glance:
There’s the nucleus of a good man vs man western and some beautiful location filming in Seraphim Falls, but it is ruined by Pierce Brosnan’s overacting, and by a script that veers from reality to fantasy
Gideon (Pierce Brosnan) did something really nasty to Carver (Liam Neeson). I know this, because Carver has hired 4 helpers to track down and kill Gideon somewhere in the snow-covered mountains. Suffice to say, Gideon did a very bad thing, but the film tries to make out like Gideon just kind of didn’t think it through – just a mistake, really. That’s just one of the fuzzy plot points in the uneven Seraphim Falls.
The movie opens as Gideon gets shot, jumps into an icy stream, survives a drop over a 40 foot waterfall, removes the bullet from his arm with his knife, heats the knife and cauterizes the wound, then keeps on running from his attackers. Somehow, he survives all this, mainly by moaning and groaning non-stop. When he is taken in by a ranching family, he changes to mumbling and breathing his lines in a kind of Grizzly Adams slash Godfather style. And yet, even though Brosnan’s acting is lacking, it’s still true that when the story moves away from him as the pursued mystery man, things get a little boring.
The second problem is that the movie can’t decide if it a realistic survivalist documentary (there are plenty of scenes of Gideon lighting fires, setting traps, whittling saplings, etc.) or a mythical story. Toward the end, the mood changes, and the film suddenly becomes dreamlike and all symbolic, populated with supporting characters (Angelica Huston and Wes Studi) that spout prosaic advice. The beautiful mountain and desert locations can’t compensate for the all-over-the-place script.
By the way, the brilliant stunt of falling over the waterfall won Mark Vanselow and Craig Hosking a Best Specialty Stunt - Taurus award. The performer was cabled to a helicopter; the cable was slackened to allow a free fall into the falls, and a bungee was used for retrieval. No CGI was used for the stunt.
Other reviewers said:
"An unremarkable revenge/chase western, bolstered by its name cast, matter-of-fact violence and Toll’s pristine photography. Eventually a little pretentious – with Anjelica Huston’s cameo the nadir – but if you love oaters, it’s just worth the time."
- Nev Pierce (Total Film)
"An unconvincing attempt at an old-fashioned western, Seraphim Falls works best as a chase thriller but falls apart when it tries to harness the mythic power of the American frontier."
- Jamie Russell (Channel 4 Film)