"Slow West" is a fine enough debut from Scottish writer/director John Maclean. It centers on a teenage Scottish boy named Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who, in the late 1800s, travels across the Western United States to search for a girl he loves. Michael Fassbender plays Silas Selleck, a bounty hunter who bumps into Jay and joins him on his quest. Little does Jay know, his girlfriend and her father are both wanted from police and there's a $2,000 bounty on their head. Jay might think he's made a partner, but it's for the wrong reasons.
Shooting in Scotland and New Zealand gives "Slow West" a unique look compared to the Westerns of yore. At an incredibly lean 84-minutes, the film does its best to tell a full story in such a short timespan. But, despite the help of some voice-over narration, you don't really get a chance to soak yourself in this story to really care about Jay or feel any tension between him and Silas. There's just something a little too slight about the entire affair. By the time we reach the climactic ending, there's an overall lack of emotion that prevents total engagement from occurring. The ending features a pretty action-packed shootout, but the end result never felt important.
That said, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Fassbender give fine performances. They keep the ball rolling and you can sense there's chemistry and a bond between their characters, just wish there was more time for that bond to grow. It's not that a great Western can't be made in under 90 minutes, but for this particular story---a version of which has been done in dozens of Westerns in the past---it would've been nice to see it unfold and play out in a longer time frame. Allow these characters to grow a little more.
You can't begrudge "Slow West" too much. It's a decent enough film that's definitely worth a rental. It's just a little too slight to make much of a lasting impact.