Indie ‘Western Religion’ Caps the Knees of the Western Revival


The great 2015 western revival dies a prompt 2016 death courtesy of Western Religion, an amateurish oater about a high-stakes 1879 poker game in the tent town of — yes — Religion, Arizona.

Boasting community-theater-grade performances and production values, James O’Brien’s indie assembles for its game of chance a team of stereotypical cartoons, including the magician (William Moore), the half-breed Indian gunslinger (Miles Szanto), the nasal-voiced bisexual fop (Louie Sabatasso), the roughneck whore (Holiday Hadley), the Arabian prince (Merik Tadros), the Chinese outlaw (Peter Shinkoda), the mysterious man of God (Gary Douglas Kohn), and the British-accented New York Times reporter (Tony Herbert) assigned to cover this supposedly important event.

As if these caricatures weren’t grating enough, they’re accompanied by the Devil himself (Claude Duhamel), who resembles Karl Urban pretending to be Clint Eastwood, and a carpenter (Sean Joyce) whose good-guy status is signified by his white hat, and whose blond locks and dim-bulb demeanor make him seem like he just stumbled onto the set after a day of surfing some gnarly SoCal waves.

O’Brien’s slow-motion-heavy staging is graceless, and his script is twice as unwieldy. With characters stuffed full of clichéd platitudes about fate, love, honor, and other topics the film isn’t capable of addressing in any mature way, it’s a fiasco of frontier-wide proportions.

Western Religion

Directed by James O’Brien

Opens January 11, Landmark Sunshine