Written and directed by Wilhelm Kuhn, co-written by Joe Ryan Laia, Sam and Ned Porter are little thugs, riding together and robbing banks. One night, Sam gets captured by mysterious bounty hunters who offer to keep him alive only if he turns his brother in. Redemption will come at a high price. Starring: Cai Dale, Glenn Conroy, Jina Rahimi, Daniel Sommerford and Emmanuel Koutsis.
An element that will forever be an advantage of westerns is getting to shoot mostly outdoors and make the most of picturesque locations. Having that utterly natural, rich backdrop of mountains, woods and lakes is always going to enhance the atmosphere and Wilhelm Kuhn, alongside cinematographer Jackie Teboul, do exactly that here. It’s a great mix of close and wide shots, giving focus to the characters but not forgetting to really embrace nature and all it has to offer. The amount of colour which the location choices bring is great to watch, allowing them to evoke the era without being drab or overly dusky. It’s also extremely consistent in its high quality all the way through.
The story however doesn’t quite manage to meet that bar, it does capture a classically western tale but it is also very simple. It struggles with the pacing, tending to bring out its overt, action or emotionally led moments in bursts rather than following a gradual build. Meaning that it can push forward then slow down again, although the themes themselves are well chosen, following primarily pride, ethics and compassion. They’re all staples of the genre and it does work but it’s missing a few extra layers or a larger action, adventure style element to drive it further. Partly being that it’s led by quite a meek, quiet character in Sam (Cai Dale), he does get to eventually come out of his shell but with a short runtime to work with, it would have been great to see his character developed further before the final scenes. Although the entirety is supported by some great score work to highlight the emotions and risks more.
A lot of the characters feel familiar, they add their own spin but typically western characters do fit a certain mould because they work and there were much simpler personality types in the era. The acting work throughout is fairly mixed, some of the cast feel stronger and more convincing than others. Part of that being leaning into the stereotype a little too much, particularly with Emmanuel Koutsis’ Ned. Then with a feminine, emotional edge left on the shoulders of Jina Rahimi alone, inside of a masculine story, she can’t quite grasp a true sincerity, and is left rather woodenly in the cliché of women during that time. However, even though it would have been great to dive deeper into his character, Cai Dale does lead the story well. There’s plenty of harsh moments thrown at him and his performance feels genuine.
The Porter Brothers capitalises on one of the great aspects of western cinema, the beauty of nature, creating a rich and colourful aesthetic but sadly can’t quite bring the story to that level. The pacing feels a little off, more back and forth rather than striving ahead and raising the tension or suspense. The performances are a mixed bag but led by a convincing and surprisingly gentle turn from Cai Dale. It’s shot very well in superb locations, with classic themes to its story but it needed a few additional layers or twists in the tale to really bring everything together.