Murder at Yellowstone City, 2022.
Directed by Richard Gray.
Starring Gabriel Byrne, Thomas Jane, Isaiah Mustafa, Anna Camp, Nat Wolff, Richard Dreyfuss, Aimee Garcia, Tanaya Beatty, Emma Kenney, Scottie Thompson, John Ales, Lia Marie Johnson, Isabella Ruby, Brian Brown, Brandon Lessard, Danny Bohnen, Scotty Bohnen, Ron Garritson, Tim Montana, and Zach McGowan.
A former slave arrives in Yellowstone City, Montana, a desolate former boomtown now on the decline, looking for a place to call home. On that same day, a local prospector discovers gold – and is murdered.
Yellowstone City is declining. However, as local prospector Dunnigan (Zach McGowan) strikes gold, things could be up and up again. That luck quickly runs out, as he is soon murdered, giving the town a mystery on their hands. Sheriff Ambrose (Gabriel Byrne) doesn’t exactly hide his racism, immediately pinning the murder on visitor and now free man Cicero (Isaiah Mustafa) with no hard evidence beyond the man also possessing some gold, Murder at Yellowstone City doesn’t explicitly address any of this is racism, seemingly uninterested in exploring complex topics during the period. But there is an inexplicable reveal of a gay couple, which also doesn’t go anywhere.
Screenwriter Eric Belgau had a lot on his mind when writing Murder at Yellowstone City, committed to taking every one of his characters seriously and giving them a story even if it means ballooning the running time up to an unnecessary 2+ hours for such a straightforward narrative (I assure you, you can predict who the killer reasonably early). Usually, that would be positive, but as one can see, the script isn’t doing anything of note with its themes, and no matter how much back story is given to the characters, they are still subpar with almost no personality.
The film then practically goes out of its way to push all those characters aside (after spending nearly an hour trying to develop them with mixed results) to boil down to a generic moral and physical battle between a preacher (Thomas Jane) and a man of the law. Fortunately, the direction from Richard Gray is skillful at bringing some of the climactic gunfights to life while also tossing in a few amusing character-related payoffs. However, there is still not much to commend beyond the period piece details and actors trying their best to bring some energy to the proceedings.
While the grand revelation should be evident to anyone paying attention, there are some compelling motives behind why it’s happening. That is also squandered in a thematic sense and, perhaps even worse, doesn’t feel logical. Murder at Yellowstone City is a real test of patience at times, but once all the poker chips are on the table and the story is focused on action, it is somewhat tolerable. Still, one wishes it engaged more emotionally considering how hard it’s going in that department.
There’s no gold with Murder at Yellowstone City, but there are one or two serviceable shootouts, although that is still not nearly enough excitement to recommend this slog.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com