Good for Nothing


The traditional story of the domestication of the West—cultivated woman from back East comes to the frontier and civilizes the wild man—gets a good dirty-joke treatment in New Zealand–shot, U.S.-set Kiwi western Good for Nothing. A proper young English lady, Isabella Montgomery (Inge Rademeyer), traveling to live with relations on a remote ranch, is waylaid in a cantina shoot-out by a squalid outlaw (Cohen Holloway). The nameless desperado instinctively moves in on his prize, but she’s disconcertingly clean, and he can’t get it up. “My dick’s broke,” he tells the first doc he finds and then, looking for a quick fix, drags kidnapped Isabella to Chinese and Injun medicine men while trailed along the way by a posse. Of course, the problem is beyond the reach of nostrums: Nearly mute, drinking whisky like water, murdering as one might scratch an itch, he’s little better than an animal—Good for Nothing has a nice comic sense of the brushfire eruptions of Western violence—while Isabella has been isolated from any awareness of her body by a corseted upbringing. The gradual closing of the cultural gap between them is told through two closely played performances, with particular praise due Holloway, whose shifty-eyed rodent face opens and evolves into an expressive, dumb tenderness.

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