The Last Rites of Ransom Pride does the best it can to drive a nail into the coffin of the western, a genre that has had more rumours of its death than Mark Twain can keep track of. It comes across as a fever dream pitched between The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and Renegade, the arty adaptation of classic Moebius Western comic strip Blueberry.
Caplan plays Juliette Flowers, the outlaw lover of the eponymous Ransom Pride, played in flashbacks by Speedman. After he dies in a Mexican gun running deal, she travels to his Texan family home to enlist the help of his brother Champ (Foster), in bringing the body home for burial. Their Pa, fire and brimstone preacher and ex-ne-er do well Reverend Pride (Yoakam), forbids this and sets off to drag Champ back, enlisting two bounty hunters to kill Flowers.
What Flowers hasn't told anyone is that Bruja (de Pablo), a crazy Mexican voodoo priestess, is holding Ransom's body ransom(!), and Champ is to be sacrificed in revenge for Ransom's killing of her brother. So far, so convoluted. The film throws in a few eccentric characters along the way, including a giant on a motorcycle and sidecar (the film is set in the early 20th century, presumably to ape the themes of The Wild Bunch), also a dwarf (Dinklage) and conjoined twins from a travelling freak show.
The cast are all pretty good, however they are wasted in a film that is all style over content. In a slim running time of just over 80 minutes, there are numerous flashbacks to events that have just happened, excessive overcranking of rolling clouds (the director and editor must love Gladiator) and multiple shots of spiders and snakes crawling over animal skulls in the desert.
All this biblical revenge type imagery does is make the film seem to drag even longer than it does. The protagonist Flowers too quickly goes from being a capable hard case to little more than a damsel in distress, and Champ's sudden elevation to heroic avanger is also unlikely. Kristofferson pops in and out, as if the film-makers remembered they killed the bad guys and needed another one. The movie has a certain dark, sleazy, violent feel to it which has not been fully exploited. A stronger script and less flashy editing would have helped immensely.