Director Martin Koolhoven shows the heaviest of hands in approaching the story.
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Brimstone is hampered somewhat by its ponderous, doom-laden pace, and resultant bloated running time, but remains an intriguing slant on the spaghetti western.
It feels like a sermon delivered by an extremely cine-literate preacher.
Its bid for social correctness does nothing to make the juvenile and numbing fixation on brutality any more palatable.
If, for all of its godawful men, “Brimstone” has a hard time sewing its feminist fervor into anything more than a thin shawl over its bleak spectacle, this disturbingly watchable religious Western makes a solid case that hell is a place on Earth.
In a way it’s a shame that film builds backwards, because while it adds layers of tricksy narrative intrigue, that trajectory somewhat simplifies the thematic texture as the movie wears on.
Dark, lurid, sadistic and powerful, it is at the least a fascinating and bold debut, and promises better to come.
What’s lacking here, mostly, is a clarity of vision and control of tone that would give this prestige Euro-Western’s mannerisms a focus.
The film has gruesomely effective moments, and one at times gets caught up in the gears of its big interlocked narrative, but it also has serious longueurs.
This grimly unpleasant two and a half hour endurance contest is an almost unwatchable, frustrating smorgasbord of blood, guts and gore.