What characteristic truly captures the American spirit? Rebellious. What good ole American does not love the story of a rugged rebel? How about a tale about a whole gang of rebels who take it to the law and steal from the banks? This tale is as American as it can get. That is why we love the Wild West so much. Even if we stretch all the truth, we still idolize that time when outlaws ran the West. That is what Death Alley is all about. A new western film tries to bring the truth to light while delivering a classic tale of one of American’s greatest gang of outlaws…The Dalton Gang.
But does Death Alley deliver a memorable and engaging look at the fatal exploits of this gang? To be blunt and honest, upon watching this film I thought it was a made for TV movie for CMT. Yes…the country music network. Writer-director Nicholas Barton goes for a…strange tone for his new western. The actual workings of the film feel time appropriate, but the musical choices feel so off. This is trying to be a serious look at this true story but comes off feeling more like Young Guns blasting some Bon Jovi. Barton uses this obnoxiously modern country music to play in the film including during a prepping montage which completely took me out of the film. Odd choice. The other reason it feels like it could be from CMT as it screams “made for TV movie” all over it. The cinematography feels so bland and uninspired.
But could there be other shortcomings when it is related to Barton’s film? Unfortunately…there are. This film has some amateurish acting laden through its cast. One scene when a bunch of unconvinced locals are informed of the Daltons’ bank robbery features over-the-top reactions and silly laughter. This is one of the few attempts at humor in the overly serious film and it falls REAL flat. I almost laughed at how awkward the performances were. The narrative is structured in an off-putting way as well. There are a few jumps back in time in the efforts to provide a framed narrative which never feels necessary. Honestly, this approach just makes the narrative feel awkward and choppy for the first act of the film.
But what if you are a fan of westerns? Will you get some enjoyment out of this? There are plenty of tropes that make this your standard western. You get some shootouts and bank robberies…what is not to enjoy? All the costume and production designs certainly make this world come alive. If you enjoy a good ole fashioned western, this one certainly fits the bill. If you enjoy westerns, go check out Death Alley. But this one will probably not get any new converts to the genre.