The Timber, 2015.
Directed by Anthony O’Brien.
Starring Josh Peck, James Ransone, Elisa Lasowski, Mark Caven, William Gaunt and David Bailie.
In the wild west, two brothers embark on a journey to collect a bounty: alive or dead, but what they find along the way is more than they bargained for.
The Western genre has given cinema some epic, sprawling and beautifully short films. Whether it’s The Magnificent Seven, or one of Sergio Leone’s classic Westerns, it’s a genre that captures the desolate beauty of the old American West (or at least when it’s done right). When you think of the best Westerns you conjure images of Panavision lensed vistas and grizzled, rugged cowboys on galloping horses. The 50’s and 60’s remain the golden era, and seemingly in more recent years, films about the old west have become a little rarer. There have been decent examples in the last 20 years certainly though.
So this brings us to The Timber. We’re rapidly passing the celluloid film age and well and truly into the digital era. The Timber, a straight to video western, shot on a meagre budget (in Romania) attempts to capture some of the magic of the genre. In the wild west, two brothers embark on a journey to collect a bounty in order to save their home. On the way they encounter more than they bargained for.
As far as the plot goes this doesn’t venture into new territory. It’s pretty standard. Director Anthony O’Brien (also co-writer) pays homage to the films about the old west. The film looks okay. It’s cold, harsh and dreary, and the Romanian landscapes look imposing. Digital photography can often lack the warmth and illusive quality of film, but for The Timber it actually works well. It’s at least a little different to the vast amber colourings of traditional western cinema. Whilst the plain and unflattering photography actually adds some atmosphere, unfortunately the direction lacks…well…direction and the editing and structuring is very messy. There are countless inexplicable examples of cutting from scene to scene with little rhythm or logic. By the time you’re halfway through the film, the editing and jumbled plot structure become tiresome.
Now, when you think back to those classic Leone Westerns with a grizzled and enigmatic leading man, it is clear that not everyone is suited to playing a Western lead. The Timber unfortunately miscasts the two principal roles. As the brothers who drive the story, James Ransone and Josh Peck just do not suit this film. They’re playing the atypical, silent, brooding, whispering cowboy. They’re channelling their inner Clint Eastwood, but neither has the required gravitas, gruffness, nor charisma. Peck, who some may remember as a bumbling comical ball of energy from Nickelodeon shows such as Drake and Josh, seems to spend half the movie squinting, and the other half pouting, while his perfectly quaffed salon quality hair just doesn’t fit. Ransone isn’t much better, and neither is given much character to work with.
With a messy structure and lacklustre writing, directing and acting, The Timber is a largely mediocre attempt at making an epic Western. There’s not too much to recommend, aside from some cold and grim photography that is at least something of an antithesis to the romanticised view of the old West from the classic era.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★