Director David Jacobsen DOWN IN THE VALLEY plays like a romantic, operatic lament for the disappearing cinematic and real-life icon: the American cowboy. Many of the elements that would fuse, say, a classic John Wayne character are present in Edward Norton (PRIMAL FEAR, 25TH HOUR) character, Harlan Fairfax Caruthers: he polite, soft-spoken, yet stubbornly brave and handy with Colt steel and lead. While at home in Death Valley in the mid 1800s, these characteristics are positively anachronistic in modern-day San Fernando Valley. How else to explain the reaction of a gaggle of giggling teenagers to Harlan as he pumps their gas? One of the teens, Tope (Evan Rachel Wood), is immediately attracted to these charms and invites Harlan along to the beach. A whirlwind romance follows, much to the chagrin of Tope (short for October) father, Wade (David Morse), who senses there is more to Harlan than meets the eye. Indeed, things begin to unravel when Harlan lies about "borrowing" a horse from a local rancher that leads to a threat at gunpoint. To make matters worse, Harlan ingratiates himself more by spending time with Tope attention-starved younger brother, Lonnie (Rory Culkin). Eventually, as more of the dangerous demons beneath Harlan charming veneer reveal themselves, action must be taken and justice meted out, Old West-style. At times tense and, alternatively, quiet, DOWN IN THE VALLEY features some creative camera work from cinematographer Enrique Chediak that fits both moods. Also, be on the look-out for a scene-long quotation from TAXI DRIVER.
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