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Friday, 30 August 2013 00:00

'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' is awfully quiet and Texan

'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' is awfully quiet and Texan
Written by Martha K. Baker
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This film needs sub-titles because either the actors are speaking Texan or they are mumbling or they are whispering. After a while, it hardly seems worth straining to hear what they're saying. It doesn't matter much because, in terms of action, the plot is not demanding. 

You got your outlaw and your outlaw's woman and their daughter. Your outlaw wants out. So he leaves the confines of his jail cell and heads home. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the little woman and the little girl, fruit of his jean-unclad loins, are making it on their own. And, in a way, they are being protected and served by the local constabulary in the form of Sheriff Patrick Wheeler.

Bob Muldoon is the outlaw, as played by Casey Affleck. Do not, however, look for the nuanced acting that Affleck produced for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Quiet and honest Ruth Muldoon is the outlaw's wife, as played by Rooney Mara. Do not look, however, for the nuanced acting that Mara produced as Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" or "The Social Network." Ben Foster plays the sheriff, and, again, do not look for the level of work he produced for "The Messenger."

Rounding out the cast and the cliches is Keith Carradine as Muldoon's surrogate father. His acting is just fine, though not up to the level he achieved in the Seventies' TV series "Kung Fu." The cast of "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is much better on paper than film despite the audience's longing to see them do good work.

David Lowery, writer and director, is the man to blame for much of this film's flatness -- and also for its awkward, inexplicable title. Lowery has concentrated on short films up to now. For variety, he directs his camera up at the tall-drink-of-water that is Carradine to lengthen the tall man more, but he maintains the film at a slow, tense pace.

What "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" does have, courtesy of cinematographer Bradford Young, is fine lighting. The light through the age-washed wooden window frame is blinding white. Sunlight forms a nimbus behind Ruth's head as she tells Bob she's with child. Amber light floods his face in a yellow-lit room.

The musical background also works well, playing a big part in the film, including the percussive sounds of handclaps and clogs.

But "Ain't These Bodies Saints" would have been better if the plot had been more original and the dialogue audible. As it is, the film is pretty boring and demanding without giving much in return.

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