In an arid wasteland created by too many lacklustre Hollywood mash-ups, critics think they’ve put the final stake in Wesley Snipe’s career, but surprisingly it returns from the dead and feasts on spaghetti using Leone and Joderowsky’s silver spoon.
Verdict: Ambitious, imaginative and visually impressive film that warrants obvious comparison (Leone), but seems more indebted to El Topo’s art direction and non-linear, gothic, psychedelic spaghetti westerns like Matalo! and Django Kill, if You Live, Shoot! Personally, I enjoy this sort of thing, but I can see why many do not; it is brazenly uncommercial and unconventional (a brave choice at this point in Snipe’s career decline), and that’s part of its appeal.
Several reviews have complained about the incoherent (or completely lacking) plot, but being a fan of spaghetti westerns, I’ve become accustomed to going along with the film’s visuals – like following a good jazz number. I found the plot to be simplistic and classic western: man seeks revenge, flashbacks ensue, he gets revenge and – here’s the twist – the people he kills come back from the grave … so man seeks young apprentice to help him kill them once again.
To some degree, I agree with the negative reviews. I did find it a frustrating and uneven watch. I couldn’t help but think that a much better film was possible. Several scenes are cut in a manner that implies not enough footage was shot (made all the more infuriating by the fact that most of the film is extremely well photographed, making excellent use of the Namibian locations). There’s also some reliance on rather cheap looking CGI – although the removal of heads and spinal columns was quite impressive. The voice-over narration – always problematic – sounds like a bad advert for men’s cologne. The narration is made even worse by two narrators, possibly a necessity stemming from Snipe’s three-year prison sentence in 2010 for failure to file income tax returns (Gallowwalkers was shot just before Snipes went to prison). The music, so important to any spaghetti western, is also disappointing, veering from more appropriate classical to some sort of alt-rock. Lastly, the climatic journey into the “spirit world” looks like it was shot in an underground parking lot. After that, an incongruous animated credit sequence rolls by, suggesting Gallowwalkers wants to position itself with the postmodern, ironic works of Rodriguez and Tarantino. Clearly, it should have remained true to its spaghetti western DNA.