14th Nov2023

‘Butchers Crossing’ VOD Review

by James Rodrigues

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Fred Hechinger, Jeremy Bobb, Paul Raci, Xander Berkeley, Rachel Keller, Amber Rose Mason | Written by Gabe Polsky, Liam Satre-Meloy | Directed by Gabe Polsky

Kansas, 1874. In a letter to his father, Will Andrews (Fred Hechinger) details his decision to leave Harvard and travel west, searching for a purpose while exploring the country. His idealistic desire to experience a hunt leads Andrews to join experienced buffalo hunter Miller (Nicolas Cage), who promises a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Little do they realise that the unfolding journey will risk their lives and their sanity.

Amidst announcements about this adaptation of John Edward Williams’ 1960 novel, the most attention regarding this film occurred during an actor roundtable, where Cage mentioned a horse named Rain Man that he believed wanted to kill him. Such a fun story feels different from co-writer/director Gabe Polsky’s feature about man’s all-consuming nature and the destructive aftermath left behind.

Accompanying his big beard and shaved head, Cage delivers a grizzled portrayal that is more subdued than one may expect. He effectively captures the hunter determined to receive the payday he believes he deserves, despite other members of the party doubting such an outcome. Accompanying him is Andrews, the viewers’ entry point who joins this dangerous scenario with a naivety born from romanticised ideals which fall apart upon seeing the casual brutality such a trade requires. Amidst this familiar arc is a jarring sense of how superfluous the character can feel to the story at times.

On show throughout Butcher’s Crossing is the stunning cinematography, allowing viewers to take in the gorgeous locations crossed throughout the journey. Such sights are welcome when the plot becomes stationary, as instances can make the party’s physical and mental strain feel tedious. The more effective instances capture a haunting look at man’s need to have dominance through brutalist methods, regardless of whether it is aimed at nature or one-another.

As the story captures the fickle nature of booming industries, while ending with a postscript describing the success of Indigenous-led efforts to restore Bison to North American plains, Butcher’s Crossing is an often-compelling look at man’s bloodthirstiness for profit, regardless of how much of a population it must destroy for such gain.

*** ½  3.5/5

Butcher’s Crossing is available on digital platforms now.


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