Seraphim Falls

Y

Michael Rechtshaffen
TORONTO -- Irishmen Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan play opposing soldiers in the post-Civil War entry "Seraphim Falls," a beautifully shot (by Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll) but dramatically empty pursuit picture set in the untamed West.

A first feature by busy TV director David Von Ancken, the sparsely written film has the visual resonance of a John Ford Western but ultimately moves slower'n a tumbleweed in a vat o'molasses.

Even two such charismatic actors as Neeson and Brosnan, all scruffy but no less photogenic, are hard-pressed to inject some much-needed vitality into their sparse lines, which have a habit of drifting off into those wide open spaces.

Technical attributes aside, this Icon Prods. effort looks to have an uphill climb at the boxoffice, even with its name actors.

From the outset, Brosnan's Gideon is a wanted man. Just exactly what he's wanted for is unclear, but it is very clear that Neeson's Carver, a former Confederate Army colonel, wants him dead, and he's even hired a posse of trackers to get the job done.

But even after taking a bullet to the shoulder, Gideon proves to be one tough hombre, constantly eluding Carver and his men during a prolonged pursuit across snowy mountains and down into the savannas before slowing to a virtual crawl in the stifling New Mexican desert.

Along the way there's no shortage of grisly blood-letting -- it is the wild West after all -- but by the time director/co-writer (with Abby Everett Jaques) Von Ancken gets around to revealing the motivation for the Javert-Jean Valjean-type pursuit, the viewer has been exposed to one too many methodically slow, existential "chase" sequences to muster up much compassion.

Although the film carries an obvious anti-war message that comes sharply into focus in the final minutes (during which Anjelica Huston comes out of nowhere as a cure-dispensing pistol in a crimson dress (could she be ... Satan?), "Seraphim Falls" ultimately fails to engage.

One ends up caring a lot more for the numbers of innocent horses who are shot, disemboweled or otherwise abused (presumably stunt horses were employed) than their two-legged counterparts.

Even Oscar-winning editor Conrad Buff ("Titanic"), who has an arsenal of action movies in his resume, isn't able to effectively kick-start this one, and the situation isn't helped by Harry Gregson-Williams' droning rumble of a score.

Seraphim Falls
Samuel Goldwyn Films/Destination Films
Credits:
Director: David Von Ancken
Screenwriters: David Von Ancken, Abby Everett Jaques
Producers: Bruce Davey, David Flynn
Executive producer: Stan Wlodkowski
Director of photography: John Toll
Production designer: Michael Hanan
Editor: Conrad Buff
Costume designer: Deborah L. Scott
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cast:
Carver: Liam Neeson
Gideon: Pierce Brosnan
Madame Louise: Anjelica Huston
Hayes: Michael Wincott
Parsons: Ed Lauter
Pope: Robert Baker
Kid: John Robinson
Henry: Kevin J. O'Connor
MPAA rating R
Running time -- 115 minutes