You’d think film festival audiences, populated as they are almost solely by the most frequent moviegoers, would be better behaved than other audiences, but the reverse seems to be true. It’s rare to get through an entire festival without sitting near someone texting through a movie. More “industry” festivals like Sundance and TIFF tend to be worse (some schmoozy douche will invariably claim that they’re in the middle of making deals and have to be on their phone during a movie), but during today’s SXSW screening of Ti West’s In A Valley of Violence, a guy near the front was screwing with his phone for half the film, to the annoyance of plenty of people behind him.
The guy, described to me by an audience member as “a hipster bro who seemed drunk,” started off texting, was told to knock it off a few times by other audience members, and briefly stopped. But when he started watching videos on his giant screen (landscape style, no less) during the last third of the movie, he was physically ejected by an audience vigilante. That theater vigilante? None other than comedian Doug Benson, host of The Doug Benson Movie Interruption — a live movie-comedy show based on interrupting movies. A little ironic, maybe, but any idiot knows there’s a big difference between a show where people pay money to watch someone interrupt a movie and a random idiot interrupting a movie people paid to see. In any case, Benson managed to waft the guy towards the door (“Don’t disrespect me, bro,” said the guy, while leaving), and was rightly congratulated for his effort by a handful of patrons following the screening. Long story short: Doug Benson is your movie hero of the day.
Oh yeah, the movie. In A Valley of Violence stars Ethan Hawke as an Old West drifter accompanied his genius dog, an Australian cattle dog named Abby. It starts as a Benji-esque action buddy western, evolves into a revenge movie, and also a comedy, and John Travolta shows up to give one of his more enjoyable performances in years. I didn’t quite know what I was watching some of the time, but when West described it during the Q&A as a kind of revenge movie where the characters aren’t competent enough to pull that off, I think I appreciated it more after the fact. The dog inarguably stole the show, and after the movie, West revealed that Abby was played by Jumpy, a dog trained by Omar Von Muller — the same guy who trained Uggie from The Artist, R.I.P. — whom Ti West found by Googling “world’s smartest dog.”
I looked up some videos of Jumpy online, and “world’s smartest dog” might be selling her short. She skateboards, surfs, does slalom courses on two legs, and jumps over vans length-wise. I’m pretty sure this is the dog version of the “extreme sport polyathlete” super genius Luke Bracey played in the Point Break remake.
Focus World is releasing In A Valley of Violence, from Blumhouse Productions, September 16th.
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.