Wichita Movie Review
Director: Nicholas Barton
Stars: Justin France, Karina Wolfe, Blake Webb
The thin line of a barbed wire fence comes clearly into focus. As the camera follows the twisted strands of wire with the sharply roughed edge at different intervals, a figure can be seen just beyond dragging what appears to a body. While the symbolism from the opening shot in WICHITA should prepare the viewer for a dark tone full of twists and bloodshed across a rugged terrain, the noir thriller set in the old west is a surprisingly fresh take of an underutilized genre.
One of the exciting aspects about writing movie reviews is the ability to see young filmmakers creating their first movie. With basically no budget, all that drives them is a passion and will for their work. My most recent viewing privilege was the independent film WICHITA, an unconventional western written and directed by Nicholas Barton.
Set in 1882, surrounding a seemingly peaceful town of Wichita, Kansas, two mysterious characters are separately making their way to the growing cow town. After a drifter, Jesse (Justin France), takes up residence at an elderly widows property as a farmhand, he quickly builds a relationship with a young woman, Samantha (Karina Wolfe), and her little sister, Mary (Reylynn Caster). At the same time a ruthless fugitive, Ben (Blake Webb), will stop at nothing to reach Wichita. The motives and agendas aren’t readily known but not everything or everyone are as they first appear. Their stories will soon reveal a world of underground crime and family corruption that finds everyone guilty and no one safe.
Utilizing the open landscape and gorgeous sunsets, WICHITA was shot entirely within Kansas. Barton capitalized on the unique location, sets and costumes available from Wichita’s Old Cowtown Museum, helping the look of the film to be as authentic as possible. One of the greatest assets to WICHITA was the ability to use real items and locations. In fact, the biggest complaints might be in some of the props or special effects created for the film, which lose a sense of reality within the picture. The same goes with some of the more pivotal scenes, where questionable dramatic choices were chosen over more sensible ones. These brief moments of inadequacies are jarring enough that they might pull one completely out of an otherwise captivating movie experience.
Providing both entertainment and a cleverness, the screenplay might be the strongest point to WICHITA. The idea behind the story and characters work quite well bringing an overall depth and movement. The basic story provides just enough clues to include the audience in the outcome but are subtle enough that some of the darker turns are still thrilling. For the most part, the actors do a solid job with the standout from Karina Wolfe, who plays the layered Samantha with such a natural ease that one loses themselves in her character.
Like any new filmmaker might have, there are some rough edges to be dealt with in WICHITA, but these are easily fixable. The problems have answers and more importantly WICHITA is an enjoyable journey that has all the bullet points for a promising young filmmaker.
Click the link to watch the trailer and find out when and where you can see WICHITA.