This film tells the story of a man who has to fight for his innocence in a wild, rough world.I'm not a fan of westerns generally, but this is not too bad. At least the visuals are good, and the main character in question at least looks amicable, like an old grandpa. It is sad to see so many people dying in westerns, to the point of having no respect for human lives. I guess that's how rough the world was back then.
One of the archetypical characters in westerns is the sidekick. A sidekick rode alongside virtually every hero in just about every horse opera. Typically, the sidekick was a considerably older fellow. Primarily, he served two purposes. First, he gave the tall, handsome, clean-shaven hero somebody with whom to converse, so we would know the hero's thoughts. Second, he provided the films with a source of comic relief. Just as the traditional western hero with his white hat and impeccable moral code rarely wandered to the wrong side of the law, neither did the sidekick. "Dead Man's Burden" writer & director Jared Moshe has elevated the peripheral western sidekick to rank of protagonist in "The Ballad of Lefty Brown." If for no other reason, "The Ballad of Lefty Brown" qualifies as a seminal western because it has done what no other western has done. Bill Pullman plays the sidekick with his usual persuasive brilliance, and he maintains the standard image of the sidekick. He sports a scruffy beard, and he wears his hat with the brim curled back in the front from a lifetime of riding headlong into the wind like a pony express rider. Not only does "The Ballad of Lefty Brown" dare to do something different, but it is also a good, solid, wide-open spaces oater. Moshe's film evokes memories of one of director John Ford's greatest westerns "The Man Who Killed Liberty Valance," co-starring John Wayne and James Stewart. Ultimately, loyalty, friendship, and the abrupt frontier justice the constitute the primary themes of this atmospheric western. A political subtext about the changing values of the Old West pervades "The Ballad of Lefty Brown." Moshe surrounds Pullman with a first-class cast, including Peter Fonda, Jim Caviezel, Tommy Flanagan, Kathy Baker, and newcomer Diego Josef. "Baytown Outlaws" lenser David McFarland's widescreen cinematography captures the savage grandeur and epic beauty of Montana. Moreover, this isn't one of those oaters that rolls over and dies at the end. Instead, it wraps up on a tense note with our congenial hero riding off into the sunset with an inevitable posse on his trail.
Lefty Brown has ridden in the shadow of his best friend, Edward Johnson (Peter Fonda of "The Hired Hand"), for forty years. Now, his partner is poised to represent Montana in Washington, D.C. The first time that we see these two together, they are contending with a bad guy. Lefty bears his inevitable double-barrel shotgun as they hunt down the villain, and Edward intervenes to save Lefty's life. Edward hangs the ruffian, and they ride back to his ranch, where his wife Laura Johnson (Kathy Baker of "Cold Mountain") dutifully awaits his return. Edward is looking forward to his future as a Congressman when rustlers strike his ranch, and Lefty and he ride out to track them down. Suddenly, the impossible occurs, and everybody is shattered by the outcome. One of the rustlers, Frank (Joe Anderson of "The Grey"), shoots Edward Johnson in the head, killing him, with a high-powered rifle. Chaos and shock sets in for everybody involved, and one of Edward's oldest friends, Montana Governor Jimmy Bierce (Jim Caviezel of "The Passion of the Christ") rides to his ranch to extend his condolences. Laura is in a predicament of her own because her husband Edward did not leave a will, and the ranch is liable to wind up in the hands of a relative rather than for her. She refuses to let this happen to her, and she convinces Bierce to forge a last will and testament, so she can retain the property. Reluctantly, Bierce accommodates Laura. Bierce's decision reveals something dark in his character that eventually comes to light regarding Edward's murder at the hands of the rustlers. Meantime, Lefty sets out to avenge his friend, but he makes a complete buffoon out of his himself. A troubled lawman who has ridden with Bierce, Tom Harrah (Tommy Flanagan of "Gladiator") comes to Lefty's rescue. Meantime, Lefty has found an orphan, Jeremiah (Diego Josef of "Message from the King"), who hero worships the like of Tom Harrah, and has dime novels that celebrate Harrah's exploits. Harrah suffers from a tragic past; his wife was murdered, but he has never quite recovered from it. Now, he is a lawman who rides with Bierce. Lefty and Harrah are old friends, too.
Bill Pullman is splendid as the slow-witted western that toplines him. Gabby Hayes might has hammed it up more, but Pullman is near enough to Hayes that you believe him.