Down In The Valley David Jacobson

Down in the Vally is Taxi Driver meets Wim Wenders without being as good as either. It’s a modern-day western tragedy that’s curious to watch but pays out no real dividends.

Edward Norton plays an apparent Western transplant to the San Fernando Valley; trouble brews when he romances underage sylph Evan Rachel Wood against the wishes of her father David Morse. As it turns out, Norton is clearly not in his right mind, being given to make-believe shootouts in his motel room and shanghaiing Wood’s brother Rory Culkin for target practice. Alas, the only interest in the film is watching it float between admiration and damnation for its deluded protagonist as he gets increasingly possessive and drifts towards violence.

In one sense he’s a dangerous psycho living out a ridiculous fantasy and in another he’s the wounded narcissistic pride of every boy who found himself living out revenge fantasies at the movies. But unlike Scorsese’s masterpiece it’s not aware of this double-edged identity and thus fails completely to give us any genuine use for the character. He’s not used to explore a common type or a social phenomenon; he’s simply called into being, to what ends we mortals may never know for sure.

To be fair, director David Jacobson has more of an eye than we’re used to from ultra-bland American pseudo-indies and he makes you watch some absurdly forced exchanges longer than some other directors might. But though the central contradiction is a fascinating one it isn’t explored in articulate detail.

You won’t be bored but you won’t see the point either, with an ending that will leave you bewildered and befuddled rather than satisfied and enlightened. (Th!nk)