Title: Good For Nothing
Director: Mike Wallis
Starring: Cohen Holloway, Inge Rademeyer, Richard Thompson, Jon Pheloung, Toby Leach, Toa Waaka
A Kiwi-shot Western which details the odd, thawing relationship between a vulnerable kidnapped woman and her uncouth captor, “Good For Nothing” is a movie which tells a pretty simple story but leaves its quiet mark — to the extent that it imparts one — chiefly via the unfussy naturalistic performances of its leads. Lacking much in the way of narrative dynamism, the film should chiefly appeal to genre enthusiasts.
A well-off Englishwoman on the way to her uncle’s frontier ranch in the wake of the death of her father, Isabella Montgomery (Inge Rademeyer) is forewarned that this “isn’t the same place you’ve read of in books,” and that advice is borne out when her bodyguard companions are gunned down by a filthy outlaw (Cohen Holloway). The man, never named, takes Isabella hostage, intending to have his way with her. When erectile dysfunction halts his attempt at rape, he then sets off on a quest to find a medical solution for his problem, visiting Caucasian, Chinese and Native American doctors and medicine men. A couple other deaths spark a strange posse who, mistaking the pair for a criminal tandem, set out across the dusty expanse with the intent of killing them both.
Visually, the film achieves a fair amount on an obviously limited budget. Shot in New Zealand by writer-director Mike Wallis, cinematographer Matthew Knight and their crew, “Good For Nothing” makes solid use of outdoor vistas until its penultimate sequence, which depicts a thoroughly unconvincing close-quarters canyon shoot-out.
Narratively, the movie is on shakier ground. The filthy kidnapper is a man of few words and blunt forthrightness (“I’m gonna give you a poke,” he explains), and so there’s much uncertainty and tension to be mined in Isabella’s initial attempts at escape and whether her subsequent acquiescence is feigned or not. Instead, Wallis invests in the dawning of Isabella’s “Stockholm Syndrome”-like identification with her kidnapper too early on (a certain sensitivity is revealed when the man spits alcohol on her wounded wrists, and later he makes a feeble attempt at wooing by brushing his teeth and picking some wildflowers), but also without the sort of scenes which would mark a deeper exploration of Isabella’s inner psyche. She remains a bit of a cipher, albeit an attractive and sympathetic one. The parallel subplot of the trackers, though — which includes an awkward seriocomic stab at frontier mischief in the form of a shoot-out with lots of bad aim — unnecessarily splits the movie’s attention, taking away screen time from a more valuable examination of its on-the-lam leads, and offering little of value in return.
There’s nothing wildly revelatory about the performances of Holloway or Rademeyer, the latter of whom vaguely recalls Kate Beckinsale. They each show a certain gift and comfort with silence, though, which not all actors possess. If only the movie trusted them enough to spend more time with them, “Good For Nothing” might amount to something a bit more special and memorable.
Written by: Brent Simon