REVIEW- GODLESS – Scott Frank’s Netflix Western shows that a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.
Following a mining accident, the women of LaBelle have been left manless, which might have been an alternative title. They’re getting along okay, though the Sheriff is going blind and a local rancher Alice Fletcher (Michelle Dockery) is something of an outcast. Things take a perilous twist however with the arrival of Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), a son-like protégé to bloody-minded gently spoken outlaw Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels). Moore has betrayed Griffin and now the outlaw and his band of thirty murderous psychopaths are scouring the Western frontier, promising to massacre any town that harbors Moore.
Okay. We’ve been waiting all this time for a Deadwood third season or TV movie or whatever. And here it is. Godless isn’t as muddy or profane as Deadwood. But it dusts off the western in a way bullshit like the Magnificent Seven remake notably failed to. The miniseries looks like cinema, widescreen and bad ass. The action is directed with a verve and invention which is continually rewarding. The acting is exceptional. Michelle Dockery breaks out of her Downton Abbey corset and Jeff Daniels breaks bad, in a way analogous (and name-checked) to Henry Fonda’s casting in Once Upon a Time in the West. He’s something between a Cormac McCarthy bad man – Blood Meridian – and a gentle paterfamilias. The script has the vim of a Larry McMurty novel – Lonesome Dove. And yet there’s also time for the sublime landscapes and beauty.
Much has been said of the feminism or otherwise of the piece. Is it a feminist western, or just a western that passes (or surpasses) the Bechdel test? To tell you the truth either one of those is a win-win. Especially when the show is such bloody fun.