In what will probably stand as a bizarre footnote to his ambitious "USA" trilogy — DOGVILLE, MANDERLAY and the projected WASHINGTON — Lars Von Trier's silly script about a group of pistol packing misfits gets better treatment than it deserves, thanks to a fine young cast and the game direction of Thomas Vinterberg. For the men of Estherslope — the Dixie flags and vague accents suggest this small, tired mining town lies somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line &151; you're either a miner, or you're a loser, and Dick (Jamie Bell) is definitely a loser. Refusing to follow his widower father (Trevor Cooper) into the dark tunnels of the Estherslope Mining Company, Dick has gotten a job at the local grocery store alongside fellow loser Huey (Chris Owen). After Huey tells Dick that the toy he's been toting is actually a real live firearm, however, everything changes. With a gun in pocket, Dick, who swears up and down that he's a pacifist, discovers self-confidence, security and — oddly — the cool, jazzy sounds of the '60s chamber-pop combo The Zombies. When Huey confesses his own obsession with weaponry, Dick figures it's high time they and a smattering of likeminded local losers — painfully shy Susan (Allison Pill); disabled Stevie (Mark Webber) and his chronically bullied kid brother; and, later, Sebastian (Danso Gordon), a kid on probation for murder — find their strength in numbers — and guns. Dubbing themselves "The Dandies," they convert a disused section of an old mining company building into a clubhouse where they can dress in foppish period costumes — their ruffled shirts, 18th-century military coats and Old West flash make it look like they've been rifling through Adam Ant's armoire — and talk endlessly about shooting styles, exit wounds and bullet trajectories. Each has his or her affectionately named gun — Dick calls his little pistol "Wendy" — but, sticking to Dick's strict pacifist credo, they mustn't even utter the word "killing"; instead, they're to use "loving" to describe the forbidden power of guns. Pacifistic or not, an armed gang in Estherslope is asking for trouble from local law enforcement, headed by Sheriff Krugsby (Bill Pullman), and when a plan to help Sebastian's shut-in grandmother (Novella Nelson) suddenly turns violent, the "time of the season for loving" begins. It's not exactly clear what this undeniably good-looking (and great-sounding, thanks to the Zombies-filled soundtrack) film is trying to say, and while it clearly references both Stanley Kubrick and Sam Peckinpah, two U.S. directors who've crafted masterpieces on the subject of violence, it’s fundamentally incoherent. Instead of THE WILD BUNCH, Von Trier winds up channeling WILD IN THE STREETS and similarly dated youthquake goofs.
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