Western Religion (2015)

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Released 20-Jul-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 100:50
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By James O'Brien
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Claude Duhamel
Gary Kohn
Holiday Hadley
Louie Sabatasso
William Moore
Sean Joyce
Peter Sherayko
James Anthony Cotton
Melissa Strom

Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Ram Khatabakhsh


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.30:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Religion, Arizona in 1879 is a tent mining town in the desert but the gold seems to be running out. To save his town from disappearing businessman Harvard Gold (James Anthony Cotton) advertises a poker game with the prize a large gold cross. He also invites an Eastern journalist to cover the event and the game draws to the town a large and mixed crowd of thieves, gunmen, card sharps, an Indian mystic, a Chinese train robber, an Arabian prince, bare knuckle fighters, whores, drifters, a magician and bounty hunters. After the preliminary rounds the final contest is between seven players; Bootstrap Bess (Holiday Hadley), a madam who wants to win so she can build her own hotel, Salt Peter (Louie Sabatasso), a Viennese dilettante out for a challenge, Raven McCabe (William Moore), a magician, Anton Stice (Claude Duhamel), a deadly gunfighter, Bobby Shea (Sean Joyce), a humble carpenter who loves Bess and wants to help her fulfil her dream, and Saint John (Gary Kohn), a bank robber and killer who has reformed and become a preacher. Looking on are an associated group of townspeople including Harvard’s wife Roberta (Melissa Strom) and saloon owner Southern Bill (Peter Sherayko). Of course, some of the poker players are not be quite what they seem and one of them may just be the Devil, come to Religion, Arizona in search of souls.

     When you have a town named Religion, mystics, a hanged man who survived, the occult, alchemy, magic, a character called Saint John and a humble carpenter who is tempted by a character seemingly impervious to bullets who may be the Devil, it is obvious that Western Religion is not your average western. Yes, it is set in the west and there are gunfights, saloons, whores, punch-ups, poker and whiskey, but this it is allegorical, a story about greed, desire, temptation, redemption, belief and, above all, love with a large ensemble cast of characters. The film introduces its diverse contestants in a series of vignettes, sometimes in flashback, starting with a hanging man; the ensemble cast of characters, all with backstories, means that for a lot of the running time it is unclear who the “hero” is and who we are supposed to cheer for. Characters who seem initially important, such as the white boy raised by an Indian mystic or the Arabian prince, make choices and drop out of the poker game; indeed, it could be said that Western Religion, for all its other themes, is a film about deciding what is important and making choices.

     Being so heavily laden with characters, talk and parables, Western Religion perhaps should not work as well as it does. That it succeeds is due to the lightness of touch of writer / director James O’Brien, in only his fourth film in 20 years. The music and widescreen images of the landscape and tented mining town have an epic tone and feel, but this is not a gritty or bloody film (the fights and shootings are relatively bloodless and there is no bad language), the characters are interesting, the dialogue poetic rather than realistic, the acting on the whole interesting with Claude Duhamel very watchable and just when you think the film is over, it adds a climax that is both unexpected and satisfying.

     Sometimes, unexpectedly, films can surprise you. This is one; I enjoyed this a lot, so if it sounds interesting, check it out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Western Religion is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The film makes full use of the widescreen frame of D.P. Morgan Schmidt to provide epic images of the desert landscape and sprawling tented mining camp. Colours are clean, with yellows and browns predominating, the detail on the costumes very good. Skin tones are natural, blacks solid and shadow detail very good, contrast and brightness consistent.

     I noticed no marks or artefacts.

    There are no subtitles provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps.

     The film has a fair amount of dialogue which is on occasion hard to hear due to a mumbled delivery, so subtitles would have been appreciated. Gunshots were however sharp and the surrounds regularly featured music, crowd noises, wagon wheels and horses’ hooves. The subwoofer was not overactive but added some depth to the music, wheels and hooves.

    The score by Ram Khatabakhsh was epic in places, augmenting the widescreen images of the desert landscape.

     Lip synchronisation seemed fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are zero extras, not even a trailer. The menu offers only Play Movie and Chapters.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US release of Western Religion is NTSC but otherwise seems to be the same as our Region 2/4 release. There is no UK version listed at present.

Summary

     Western Religion is an unexpected treat. Despite the parables, such as a humble carpenter being tempted by the Devil, and the themes of greed, desire, temptation, redemption, belief and, above all, love, this is not a heavy film due to the lightness of touch of writer / director James O’Brien. This is only his fourth film in 20 years, but on the evidence of Western Religion I look forward to his next one.

     The video and audio are fine. There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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