A teenage outsider plans to avenge the murder of her sister. She did not have much contact with her sister anymore, but she needs to find the guilty and give the murderer a deserved sentence.
When you look at "Darkness on the Edge of Town" with little insight you might see yet another dark Irish indie feature, and you wouldn't be wrong. But the movie that "Darkness on the Edge of Town" looks like from an outsider's perspective doesn't quite reveal its wonderful secrets. Not saying it looks bad, but it doesn't seem like it has any surprises. My honest reason for wanting to check this movie out in the first place was because the lovely Emma Eliza Regan plays the lead. It didn't take long to get into the movie, but the more I sat through it, the more I thought about what I was seeing, I wasn't just seeing a dark drama/thriller about a troubled teenager and the death of her sister. I saw a western. Yes, you might have read about the movie and found that out already, but I hadn't. Don't fret, it's not a spoiler, but a good reason to watch it.
What makes this Irish indie a western? Well, it's about vengeance - a very common plot device in that specific genre. But more than that, it's loaded with shootouts that all could have taken place in the late 19th century's wild, wild west. Even the look and feel of the scenes have some hints of the western flavour. But is that all the movie is? Definitely not. This is a rather dark and emotional journey set in rural Ireland. It tells the story of a young woman, Cleo, trying to find the person behind the death of her sister, with a very heavy focus on her relationships. One of the more important relationships being her friend, Robin, who joins her on the journey. As the movie develops, the more we care about Cleo.
There's plenty going on in the movie, yet it manages to feel comfortably slow. I say "comfortably", because I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. But it could have spent a bit more time establishing the relationship between Cleo and Robin. We understand that they are close, but it's shown in a shallow manner. There was no reason to feel like they mattered that much to each other. We knew it as a fact, but not emotionally. Though I did care about Cleo a lot, so at least it did pull us in one way or another.
"Darkness on the Edge of Town" successfully blends a drama with the layout of a western movie, making it a much more unique experience the more you think about the movie. There were sacrifices, obviously, as there are parts that aren't entirely realistic or believable. Then again, the heroes of the western movies were never realistic either, were they? I did not expect to be treated with intense shootouts in a movie like this, but it did, and without shoving its western inspirations down our throat. It let us feel it ourselves so that it never distracts you.
While "Darkness on the Edge of Town" could have been a lot more powerful as a whole, what we ended up getting was a lot more interesting to me. I might not have felt emotionally scarred as some indie movies successfully do, but "Darkness on the Edge of Town" takes pieces from westerns and implants them into a classic tragedy, set in modern times. It's cleverly and subtlety structured genre bending. It works wonders with its simple storyline. And I finally got to see Emma Eliza Regan in a lead role and absolutely nailing it. She's like an Irish, modern Frigga from "Thriller: A Cruel Picture". I'd love to see another movie continuing the badassery of what this character becomes. There could definitely be a full-on western/revenge/vigilante movie about her.