Good for Nothing -- Film Review

Beauty and the Beast meets Sergio Leone in this amusing Western import.

Feature debut from writer-director Mike Wallis is a quirky Western about a blossoming romance.

SANTA BARBARA -- Imagine a Kiwi spaghetti western filtered through the offbeat sensibilities of early Sam Raimi or the Coen brothers and you’ve pretty much got the picture that is Good for Nothing.

A promising first feature effort by New Zealand-based animation coordinator Mike Wallis, the quirky story of a burgeoning romance between a savage outlaw and his young English female captive might not always satisfyingly occupy those wide-open spaces, but the overall result still makes for a spirited ride.

Handed its world premiere at Santa Barbara, the indie labor of love deserves to find exposure beyond the festival circuit.

Having just lost her father back home, a young English woman (Inge Rademeyer) steps off a locomotive in the middle of a dusty wild, wild West outpost (courtesy of dramatic Central Otago in NZ’s South Island), ostensibly to stay at her uncle’s ranch.

But those plans are derailed by a bad hombre (Cohen Holloway) who blows away her chaperones and claims her as appropriated bounty.

While he intends to have his way with his proper but feisty hostage, he turns out to have performance issues and sets out to seek treatment from local Chinese and Indian medicine men while dodging an approaching posse.

Director-screenwriter Wallis, whose previous technical credits include Avatar as well as several Peter Jackson productions, has a clear affection for the genre, but that doesn’t mean doesn’t mind subverting things a bit.

He receives game support from Holloway, doing his best Clint with a knowing glint, and lovely newcomer Rademeyer, who proves to be no pushover despite her well-heeled trappings.

Although all the carefully-held poses grow a bit tired after a while, Wallis generally keeps things entertainingly on course, getting an energetic boost from composer John Psathas and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, who take playful aim at classic Ennio Morricone.

Venue: Santa Barbara International Film Festival
Production companies: MI Films, Chopper Prods.
Cast: Cohen Holloway, Inge Rademeyer, Jon Pheloung, Richard Thompson
Director-writer: Mike Wallis
Executive producers: Jamie Selkirk, Brett Gamble
Producers: Mike Wallis, Inge Rademeyer
Director of photography: Matthew Knight
Production designer: Zoe Wilson
Music: John Psathas
Editor: Greg Daniels
No rating, 93 minutes