Review: ‘Western Religion,’ about an 1879 poker tournament, folds early


An 1879 poker tournament attracts a cast of colorful high rollers, opportunists and scam artists to the dusty Arizona frontier in “Western Religion,” a one-dimensional movie painted in painfully broad strokes and whizzing, hurry-scurry action sequences.

In his Indiegogo fundraising proposal, writer-director James O’Brien outlined a radical reimagining of many western archetypes. But he apparently has no other cards up his sleeve. The ideas here aren’t developed, as they were tossed into the air only to be shot down.

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The guy who propositions half of the men winds up in bed underneath a bare-chested lady. The self-sufficient, gun-slinging brothel madam ultimately relies on a man to do her bidding at the card game. Unusual characters such as a Chinese train robber, an Islamic prince and a “Dances With Wolves”-type white Apache tribesman leave the table in rapid succession, relegated to token status.

Although the sheriff has all firearms confiscated at the outset, they are conveniently abundant whenever a challenge to a duel is imminent. And all the cutthroat players seem only too eager to concede the top prize to help facilitate the ending.


“Western Religion”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood