The myth of the Old West is alive, well, and living in L.A., said Leah Rozen in People. Ed Norton is 'œgut-wrenching' as Harlan, an out-of-touch suburban cowboy who carries a lariat and rides his horse through highway traffic. He's a loser, though his rebellious teenage girlfriend Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood) is too young to know it, or to stop the tragic turn his story takes. Like many classic Westerns, this film was made in the San Fernando Valley, said Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News. That's where the similarity ends. Down in the Valley, which tacks old clichés onto a substandard contemporary drama, is only a wannabe Western. The last nail in its coffin is hammered in when Harlan stumbles onto a movie set, pulls a gun on an actor playing Wyatt Earp, and then turns it on the cops. What were the filmmakers thinking? 'œHarlan seems too good—or at least too weird—to be true,' said Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.com. Like most of the movie's audience, he would have been too young to see films such as Rio Bravo or The Wild Bunch in theaters, so you wonder how he could have internalized them so completely. Still, Norton plays Harlan so convincingly that you 'œcontinue to like him' even as the film sputters to its confusing close.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.