- Let Him Go
- Directed by Thomas Bezucha
- Written by Thomas Bezucha, based on the novel by Larry Watson
- Starring Diane Lane, Kevin Costner and Lesley Manville
- Classification R; 114 minutes
For all the film-industry nightmares that Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel has wrought – including the long-awaited “Snyder Cut” of Justice League, which is now reportedly costing Warner Bros. an extra $70-million to deliver for HBO Max subscribers, quite a number for a re-edit of a movie that already exists – the movie did accomplish one good thing: shoving Diane Lane and Kevin Costner together to play Clark Kent’s humble country-folk parents. Across two Superman movies, the actors brought grace and gravitas to a franchise that was coarse and crass. Plus, the stars, perfect Hollywood case studies in aging gracefully, looked really, really, really good together.
Lane and Costner apparently agree, as they’ve decided to collaborate again on Let Him Go, a skillfully executed thriller that is narrowly aimed at one demographic – audiences over 50 who like a little violence with their late-life dramas – but succeeds at entertaining just about anyone who comes across its dusty, blood-soaked path.
Adapting Larry Watson’s 2013 novel, writer-director Thomas Bezucha casts Lane and Coster as Margaret and George Blackledge, a homemaker and retired sheriff, respectively, who spend their days tending to their horses and modest ranch in 1950s Montana. A few years after their twentysomething son dies in an accident, the Blackledges stand idly by as their somewhat dim daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter) marries a harder-edged man, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), figuring that their three-year-old grandson could use a permanent father figure. But when Donnie whisks Lorna and her son to his family’s off-the-grid North Dakota compound with zero notice, Margaret resolves to get her kin back, pulling a reluctant George along for the ride.
Once confronted by the criminal Weboys, though, the Blackledges realize that their “steady-as-steel” disposition, to borrow Watson’s prose, is no match for the amoral viciousness of their new connected-through-marriage relatives. Especially confounding is the Weboys' tough-as-rusty-nails matriarch Blanche (Lesley Manville), who cooks pork chops like she was frying up a man’s heart. And so begins a tense tug of war between two clans – and two American mindsets, if you want to lightly scrape Watson’s original themes – that can only end in carnage.
There is not much in Bezucha’s up-and-down filmography (the young-adult romp Monte Carlo, the acidic holiday comedy The Family Stone) to suggest that he could successfully transfer Watson’s restrained western pulp to the screen. Save for the fact the director’s first movie, the largely forgotten 2000 rom-com Big Eden, also took place in Montana. Yet Let Him Go arrives as a seamless adaptation. Expertly paced and handsomely shot in a soothing palette of brown, yellow and yellowish-brown, the film lulls you into its world with minimal effort.
Of course, Lane and Costner are excellent, the two conveying the hard strain and easy respect of a long marriage. George is not exactly a verbose character, but Costner is key to making the man’s few words count. Most other actors tasked with uttering the line, “Sometimes that’s all life is, Margaret – a list of what we’ve lost,” would inadvertently betray the character’s rock-hard stoicism. Yet Costner, no stranger to Let Him Go’s neo-western trappings, confidently digs his feet into the role, spurs first. Margaret, meanwhile, offers just the right balance of compassion and protectiveness, with Lane only needing a half-smile to convey the uneasy mixture.
While the film is far from perfect – its score keeps bizarrely tiptoeing into Bryan Adams’s (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, the Blackledges end up relying on a too-conveniently placed Indigenous accomplice, the fiery ending arrives abruptly – Let Him Go is still a rock-solid excursion into violent Americana, powered by a truly great pairing of Hollywood personas. I guess we should all send Snyder a thank-you card.
Let Him Go opens in Canadian theatres Nov. 6, dependent on local health guidelines
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