Brutality is common in westerns, but the degree to which writer/director Martin Koolhoven uses violence in Brimstone shocked and divided audiences after its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. With more of a warning, the film was embraced during its later showings, but its reputation as a two and a half hour bloodbath was already cemented.

The period film seems to be pulling its tone (and title) from the vivid imagery of fire and brimstone sermons like Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, applying that to what is either a feminist western or an exercise in sadomasochism, depending on your reaction. From looking at the trailer, it could go either way, with religious menace, armed women, and a human muzzle all present.

source: Momentum Pictures

Whatever Brimstone ends up being, it certainly doesn’t look like one of those slogging 2-plus hour epics. Guy Pearce as the portentous Reverend is chewing the scenery with gleeful abandon, and Dakota Fanning is making every effort to put her childhood acting days behind her. European locations stand in marvelously for the grit of the American West, and much is done with shot composition and lighting to make everything appear grandiose. Maybe all of this will add up to something meaningful, or maybe it will just be an empty exercise in style. At the very least, it isn’t likely to be boring.

Brimstone is directed by Martin Koolhoven and stars Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, and Kit Harington. It will be released in the U.S. on March 10th, 2017. For international release dates, click here.

Do you think Brimstone will earn its shocking violence? Let us know in the comments!

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