Among not too many modern western movies you’ll find The Ballad of Lefty Brown, an unassuming but honest tale from the frontier. What sets it apart from all of those movies is its protagonist, Lefty Brown. He’s also an unassuming but honest man trying to do what’s right in this harsh world. We will be following his quest for justice as he tries to figure out what’s going on. I’m intentionally vague here as this is one of those movies you need to just dive into. Do what I did and have it on the ready. And then, one night, you’ll be in the mood for an undemanding but highly rewarding and underrated western movie like this.
The Ballad of Lefty Brown is one of those westerns that sneak up on you. The storytelling is excellent along with lush cinematography. The big open plains and barely traversable mountains never looked more inviting. So, apart from my fetish for space escapism, I also have a fetish for western escapism. To travel to a time and place where life was much simpler, cheaper, and shorter. Only the lucky ones made it to their sixties, like our hero Lefty here. That’s a funny name, Lefty, isn’t it? Actually, there will be a couple of odd names in this movie. Tom Harrah, Jimmy Bierce, and Thaddeus Crobley all sound familiar but with a certain frontier twist to them.
The story unfolds from the perspective of one and only Lefty, leaving much of the context shrouded in mystery. There will be a lot of unexpected twists so I beg you to give this movie a chance. I know it starts off rather loosely and slowly but I assure you things will soon pick up. And once they do, The Ballad of Lefty Brown turns into a different beast altogether. At first, it reminded me a lot of Appaloosa, starring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen. However, as time went on, it started looking more like Black ’47 or The Nightingale. Still, this is a movie offering a fairly romanticized version of the Wild West but with a healthy portion of reality checks.
Times are changing and they’re especially changing for two longtime best friends, Lefty and Eddie. Lawman Edward Johnson is about to become a senator in Washington while Lefty is staying behind, in Montana, to take care of his ranch. However, Edward’s wife Laura, along with a couple of others on the ranch have doubts Lefty is the right man for the job. Will he prove them right or wrong is up to you to find out.
Bill Pullman was a force of nature in The Ballad of Lefty Brown. His performance here is nothing short of stellar proving once and for all just how good of an actor he is. Apart from Bill, we also have Peter Fonda, Jim Caviezel, and Tommy Flanagan. However, none of them could come close to Joe Anderson who played the role of Blondie AKA outlaw Frank Baines. There was something so magnetic and also frightening about his performance. We also shouldn’t forget to mention Kathy Baker who was excellent as Laura Johnson.
Featuring a running time of 105 minutes and steady pacing, this is a movie you’re going to finish in one go. The cinematography and pacing remind me of No Country For Old Men. The atmosphere is juicy and immersive, transporting you to the year of our lord Satan 1899 and the lush lands of Montana. Considering how the movie begins and how it ends, I can’t help but wonder did Jared Moshe drew some of the inspiration from Deadwood. However, The Ballad of Lefty Brown turns the usual western formula on its head. It focuses its attention on the unsung hero, unjustly forgotten by both history and myth.
A hero carrying The Growler, a handy double-barreled sawed-off shotgun ready to dispatch justice in an instant. Other characters also mention the names of their weapons offering even more juicy tidbits for us to enjoy. Finally, if you’re looking for movies like The Ballad of Lefty Brown check out our Rabbit Reviews selection of Western Movies. Among them, however, you won’t find The Ballad of Buster Scruggs as I think that’s just too famous of a movie to recommend.
Director: Jared Moshe
Writer: Jared Moshe
Cast: Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Kathy Baker, Joe Anderson, Jim Caviezel, Tommy Flanagan, Diego Josef
Fun Facts: Following the best nickname traditions, Lefty is actually right-handed and does almost everything using his right hand.