Eminence Hill (2019)

Rating: C-

Dir: Robert Conway
Star: Clint James, Owen Conway, Charlie Motley, Anna Harr

If I had come to this movie based on the poster below, I would likely be severely miffed, and for good reason. None of the three actors pictured on it, should be considered close to the actual stars of the movie. Barry Corbin and Dominique Swain have supporting roles, while Lance Henriksen has precisely one scene. Fortunately, I’m here because this is an Arizona production, and so stunt casting for promotional purposes doesn’t matter. This was filmed in Mescal, down in the South-east corner of the state, Per Wikipedia, Steve McQueen’s Tom Horn was partly filmed there, along with Tombstone and The Quick and the Dead. The desert scenes here were shot up near Sedona. So this is Arizona state, playing the part of the Arizona Territory in 1887.

The two main characters are Royce (James) and Quincy (Conway). The former is an outlaw who has been taking vengeance on the 12 jurymen who condemned his brother to death. Ticking the final name off the list, he also kidnaps his victim’s daughter, Ruth (Hart), intending to sell her to savages, or a brothel. Quincy is a US Marshall, on Royce’s tail. He makes a deal with a former associate of the outlaw, Garrett (Motley), who is in jail, offering freedom in exchange for help tracking Royce. Ruth escapes from the gang, and ends up in the titular town, with Royce, and then Quincy, in pursuit. Except the locals are religious fruitcakes, who have a firm zero-tolerance policy for heathens. Which is basically anyone else, as both outlaw and lawman are about to find out.

It’s not a bad story. Unfortunately, the execution is very pedestrian, with too much sitting around, chatting. This might be campfires, in the case of Royce and Quincy, or the kitchen table, in the case of the zealots. It’s just all too talky, and it doesn’t help that much of the dialogue just sounds “off”, for some reason I can’t quite pin down. Of the cast on the cover, Corbin is Noah, head of the religious community; Swain is Gretchen, a member of Royce’s gang (who gets her top off in a thoroughly gratuitous scene); and Henriksen plays Mason, a veteran who calls Quincy out for previous crimes. Oddly, Brinke Stevens also shows up as one of the townsfolk. Must have run out of room on the poster.

It seems be to trying go the route of Bone Tomahawk, with a fondness for gore that’s sometimes surprising – though never as disturbing as its inspiration. The performances are more functional than effective. They would all be acceptable as supporting roles in another movie, yet are not able truly to carry even the B-Western we have here. When your film is operating on that level, it’s probably a bad idea to being the likes of Henriksen in, since he simply draws attention to the deficiencies in the rest of the cast. This is not a hill you’ll want to die on.