A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No messages here other than revenge. The major takeaway is: Don't mess with a man's dog. Violence does have some small measure of consequence. Some fat-shaming, and some racial/cultural stereotypes.
Positive Role Models
No real role models. Characters act with violence and vengeance. Female characters are feisty and headstrong, but they also resort to violence.
Violence & Scariness
Heavy gun violence, with bloody, gory deaths. A man's neck is sliced with a razor. A tub full of bloody water is shown. A man's head is crushed after falling from a roof. A man is hung by a rope. A man kicks and shoves women. A dog is shot and stabbed (off screen). A dog attacks a man's arm, with blood smears on the dog's mouth. Fighting. Bloody wounds. Characters are ganged up on. A character is thrown into a ravine. Scary/intense war flashback/nightmare. Vulture picks at a corpse. Beating with a cane and a boot.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One character tries to kiss another, but he pulls away. An embrace. Men bathing in a tub (nothing shown).
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A few uses of "f--k." Also "s--t," "c---sucker," "ass," "goddamn," "prick," "hell," "damn," "chink," and "idiot."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A secondary character is a comically drunk preacher. Characters occasionally drink whiskey in a saloon, with no side effects. Characters regularly smoke cigars.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that In a Valley of Violence is a Western by cult horror director Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers). Its entire plot centers on an act of cruel violence that's followed by bloody revenge. As a result, there aren't any real takeaways outside of: Don't mess with a man's dog. Expect lots of gun violence, gory/bloody killings, and dead bodies. A dog is harmed, and a man kicks and shoves women. There's also fighting, beating, and a scary war-related flashback/nightmare. Language is occasionally quite strong, with sporadic uses of "f--k," "c---sucker," "s--t," "ass," and more; there's also some fat-shaming and racial/cultural stereotyping. A minor character is portrayed as a drunk, and other characters occasionally drink whiskey and/or smoke cigars. Men are seen bathing, with nothing sensitive shown, and there's an attempted kiss and some cuddling between two characters. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
West -- a superior horror director -- adapts his skills to the Western genre and comes up with a simple revenge-based film, baked in his singular style, with plenty of amusing, amazing touches. With its big, red opening-credits sequence and Jeff Grace's thumping, thundering score, In a Valley of Violence is clearly inspired by Sergio Leone, but it ultimately feels more like a tense, economic B movie than it does a sprawling epic. As he did in his great horror films The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, West favors a slow-burn technique, spending time watching the characters talking or simply being before moving ahead.
This allows for many unexpected moments of humor -- as well as surprising moments of violence. (A war-related flashback/nightmare reveals West's horror roots.) It also allows for a rounded performance by Hawke, who's perfect as a stoic loner, and a fun one by Travolta as a wise, cautious lawman. And although women rarely figure much into the Western genre, Farmiga is delightfully chattery and headstrong. The movie's plot recalls many other films (especially, almost note-for-note, John Wick), but West makes this movie all his own. It's a worthy addition to a classic genre.
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