Set in the American Old West, Sweetwater is a story of one woman’s vengeance against a religious extremist (Jason Issacs) who claims himself a prophet, and the town that allows him to rule with tyranny. After Sarah’s (January Jones) husband goes missing a chain of events eventually lead her to take justice into her own hands. With a little help from an eccentric sheriff, played by Ed Harris, whose brilliant performance is something everyone will be talking about, she may just get her revenge.
The film is set in New Mexico sometime in the 1800s. We are first introduced to Sarah (Jones) and her husband Miguel (Eduardo Noriega), as a poor, struggling couple threatened by a town full of heavy racism and fanatical religion perpetuated by Prophet Josiah (Jason Isaacs), a dominant figure in the community. Meanwhile, the recent murder of two men believed to be passers-through, brings a new sheriff to town (Ed Harris), disrupting the way of life Josiah has worked so hard to create in order to rule over the town in tyranny.
There are definite signs of a Tarantino influence in scenes of excessive violence and CSI-esque investigative elements that exhibit neo-noir characteristics of story telling. The Miller brothers are also successful at creating distinctive, over the top characters a la Tarantino’s Vincent Vega (John Travolta) or the more recent Dr. Schultz (a character that yielded Christoph Waltz’s Academy-Award winning performance).
Every feature plays a role in defining who the characters are down to the color of their clothes and the way they wear their hair. Perhaps most noteworthy of these is the bright, purple dress worn by Jones as she implements Sarah’s acts of revenge. (Reminiscent of the role Uma Thurman’s neon yellow suit plays for her character in the Kill Bill Trilogy).
Ultimately Sweetwater is a pretty straightforward Western story of revenge, but the Miller brothers manage to make it stand apart by adding a few new spins on an old genre style, namely their choice to use a strong female character as the story’s lead protagonists is a risk seldom taken in a genre that tends to perpetuate the female in need of rescuing scenario. January Jones’s portrayal of Sarah is really what makes the film, although performances by Issacs and Norton are also noteworthy as well as a pleasure to watch.
Sweetwater was selected to screen as one of the centerpiece films at the Dallas International Film Festival.