Movie Review: Sweetwater


Sweetwater sees Director Logan Miller flexing his directorial muscles for only the second time. This rape-revenge spaghetti Western is set in northern New-Mexico circa late 1800s and has all the ingredients of good Western; plenty of violence, a sprinkling of sexual content and some unexpected humour.

The mean, mean west

The main antagonist is Josiah, a polygamous religious cult leader played by Jason Isaacs, who is at odds with pretty much everyone in town.

This includes hardscrabble rancher, Miguel, played by Eduardo Noriega, who soon finds himself at loggerheads with Josiah over his land, and his wife Sarah (January Jones).

Miguel has the land and the woman that Josiah wants and this merciless religious zealot will stop at nothing to get what he wants, and that includes murder.

Sweetwater is an unassuming little town and it is the epitome of the mean side of the old west, which this film revels in. The harsh realities of the west is heavily depicted through Noriega’s character, Miguel, who is persecuted at every encounter.

He is cheated by the local banker (Stephen Root), considered a heathen by Josiah (Isaacs) and even his in-laws think he is not good enough for their daughter. To all intents and purposes Miguel is a noble and hard-working man, doing what he can to survive in the largely lawless Wild West. Certainly there was no law to prevent Miguel’s ultimate demise at the hands of the power hungry Josiah.

Awakening the fury

Raping and killing in the name of God, Josiah is convinced that his actions are wholly legitimate. His dark form of evangelicalism leads him on a skewed holy war against the people of Sweetwater and as Old Testament absolutism meets spaghetti Western rawness Josiah is soon mercilessly piling up the bodies.

When he becomes fixated on Miguel’s wife Sarah (Jones), the main plot of the film begins to excitedly unfold. Not satisfied with arranging the death of her husband and leaving her penniless, widowed and pregnant, Josiah eventually rapes and beats Sarah.

As with Miguel, Sarah is a likeable character desperately trying to survive in a sexist, male dominated New Mexico. She is objectified everywhere she goes, but, having been a prostitute previously, she prefers to take the low-key path through life and avoid confrontations wherever possible.

This as opposed to her husband who often recklessly confronts almost anyone who challenges him. However, after a deluge of torment from Josiah, Sarah swiftly transforms into a stone cold killer on a vengeful war path to wipe out everyone in Josiah crew.

Slow and steady wins the race


The scenes in Sweetwater are often slow and deliberate with an air of loquacious that is reminiscent of Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

The cinematography is suitably brooding, and the cast, on the whole, seem to be enjoying themselves, particularly Harris and Isaacs.

What you end up with is a movie that allows the viewer plenty of time to analyse a fascinating world of interesting characters before the main plot explodes into action.

There is a delightful face-off between the self-justifying, megalomaniac Josiah, and a take-no-nonsense Sheriff played by Harris who comes to town to investigate a missing person. The tone in Sweetwater is heavy and dramatic for the most part, but it is also laced with periods of parody, which lightens the tone in places.

Sarah changing her cloths in a store, for example, and then poking the store person in the eye when he is caught ogling her through a hole in the curtain is one such scene where the film-makers try to add humour to movie.


The formula for creating a good Western has been long established; a great villain, idyllic landscape and battered heroes. “Sweetwater” has much of the ingredients needed to stand out in this genre, but the sluggish pace of the movie may not be to everyone’s liking. However, the action scenes and strong message conveyed by the film will help to offset any impatience with the film overall.