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South of Heaven, West of Hell

3.2 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Dwight Yoakam, Bridget Fonda. A U.S. Marshal tracks a destructive clan of outlaws, while a government man claims that the Marshal is actually a ghost of his deceased self. 2000/color/104 min/R/widescreen.


If you've never heard of South of Heaven, West of Hell, there's an excellent reason. If you have heard of it, it's probably because you stumbled upon the information that it marks the directorial debut of singer-actor Dwight Yoakam, who managed to sweet-talk a spectacularly quirky cast into abetting the enterprise: current girlfriend Bridget Fonda and her papa Peter; indie-world luminaries Vince Vaughn and Billy Bob Thornton (for whom Yoakam made a memorably loathsome villain in Sling Blade); character-acting stalwarts Bo Hopkins, Matt Clark, Luke Askew, and Scott Wilson; and such icons of the florid fringe as Bud Cort, Paul Reubens, and Michael Jeter. All should file for workman's comp and alienation of audience affection because they got themselves mired in one of the dumbest, most inept, most tediously self-indulgent messes in the history of showbiz hubris.

Yoakam stars (you guessed?) as a U.S. marshal whose tiny Arizona town is literally annihilated by a clan of outlaws from his past. He and they used to be family. Now he has to track them down, even as they go on making life hell on earth for anyone in their path. That includes a hapless government man (B. Cort) whom they're keeping alive for sport, and a traveling lady (B. Fonda) who ... well, who's blonde and is mostly photographed in slow motion because she's the director's girlfriend (see above). It is beyond the scope of mortal man to describe how primitive are Yoakam's notions of dramaturgy (mostly there is just shouting and hair), how any coherent grasp of time or geography eludes him, how little difference it makes whether these gargoyles start killing each other in any given scene. It's just awful. And while we're at it, offal. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Luke Askew, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Vaughn, Bridget Fonda
  • Directors: Dwight Yoakam
  • Writers: Dwight Yoakam, Dennis Hackin, Otto Felix, Stan Bertheaud
  • Producers: Abe Shainberg, Auri Spigelman, Buck Owens
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: August 21, 2001
  • Run Time: 133 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005LMAL
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,636 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "South of Heaven, West of Hell" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 25, 2001
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Some of the other reviewers apparently expected a mainstream Western, but this film is actually a wild, funny deconstruction of the classic icons of American Westerns, that pays visual and thematic homage to familiar, great Westerns, while simultaneously dissecting such icons by taking them to a deliberately absurd (and frequently hilarious) extreme. The film is accompanied by an informative audio commentary by the director, one of the producers, the DP, and the film's editor (I give the film 4 stars, and the 5th star is for the commentary). I would call this film a "meta-Western," more about the genre and its archetypes than anything else. Luke Askew and Bo Hopkins, familiar faces from other, far less adventurous Westerns, give superb performances, as do Paul Reubens (playing WAY against his Pee Wee Herman type!), Vince Vaughn (a truly menacing psychopath), and Bud Cort (an effete government official). A young, first-time actress named Flecia Beard gives a strong performance in the small role of a deaf-mute child traumatized by a father who cannot accept her handicap. Bridget Fonda gives a nice performance, and her character definitely modernizes the "damsel in distress" stereotype by taking matters into her own, quite capable hands when she is menaced. John Wayne's love interests definitely never defended themselves the way Addie does! Overall, this film is a mostly successful, thought-provoking combination of the surreal (some of the characters may or may not be dead) and the realistic (most of the shots fired miss their mark by a country mile). It's beautifully photographed (by the son of the cinematographer of many classic Westerns, as the audio commentary informs us), and the score is excellent, including one track co-written by Dwight Yoakam and Mick Jagger.Read more ›
Comment 22 of 27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Dwight Yoakam, accomplished country/western singer, loves movies. He has appeared, as an actor, in over a dozen films. On this film, Yoakam functioned as writer, co-producer [with Buck Owens], director, star, and of course, he worked on the musical score as well. This would be quite a feat for the most accomplished of movie stars, which Mr. Yoakam is not. He can be very effective as an actor, when directed properly, as in "Sling Blade" and "Panic Room". He is a better actor than Johnny Cash was, or Merle Haggard; certainly as good as the icon known as Willie Nelson.
This film is so bad, it is almost good. It is so different, so off-center, so oblique, that it challenges the audience. The cinematography, by James Glennon, is lush; images bathed in dust and golden light, drenced in blood-red sunsets and shimmering mirage riders, ghost-like apparitions. I think it is admirable that Yoakam had enought influence, enough money, enough good friends, and enough ego to launch this dark confused tale. But, alas, it does not emerge as eclectic as Jim Jarmusch's mini-classic,"Dead Man". We all love a western, and Yoakam can be applauded for purposefully breaking down many of the cliches of the genre. Next time though, sir, please procure blanks for your handguns that do not sound like cap pistols.
The movie has been called self-indulgent, and it is; tedious, even egregious. Actually, what it is remains closer to a labor of love falling leagues short of coherence. It was poorly written. Without strongly defined characters, clear conflicts, and fully-realized conclusions, we struggle as viewers. At times, the film becomes too esoteric; like Dennis Hopper's "The Last Movie", one suspects the cast had fun doing it, but where's the fun in watching it ? No one wants a film to fail.
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1 Comment 24 of 30 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I am a huge Dwight, Billy Bob & Vince fan, along with most of the cast, but this movie was bad- as if I had written & directed this movie. The story, editing, sound, music (Xylophones???), etc. This flick was even hard to watch as a joke, and believe me, I tried real hard to find something to like here. I'd have to say "Painted Cowboy," staring lead man Dwight, was a 5 star compared to this mess. I have got to cleans my mind and watch Sling Blade again, I'm giving South of Heaven, West of Hell 2 stars for the cast.
Hey Dwight, I'm still going to watch your future movies, I know you are loaded with talent, so just hang in there.
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Format: DVD
What a strange movie. It took exactly one hour and twenty minutes for anything to happen. Until then, its pace was that of a Tree Sloth, only less deliberate. This western has an all-star cast, though. The always-wonderful Billy Bob Thorton plays an ever so elegant, overly-eloquent Doc Holiday type, though he shuffles off before any real action takes place. Paul Reubens plays a convincing surprisingly handsome misfit. Dwight Yoakam plays a funny looking guy much in need of a hat. Peter Fonda shows up, then dies. Bridget Fonda shows up, administers an impressive and devastating blow to the groin of one of the bad guys, from which he never rightly recovers. And Vince Vaughn plays a mean, sombero-wearing sonnamabitch. There is even a deputy who wears a dress, though, you never really care enough to find out why he does such a thing. They all take turns waiting for something to happen, they talk before the one hour and twenty minute fun part, but what they said didn't really matter. Just a bunch of names that were hard to remember. I counted no less than four highly inappropriate love scenes, that seemed as passionate and timely as any set of grandparents one can think of. There are a whole slew of unimportant characters, some live and some die. Some of these characters are sporadically consumed with a dizzying range of emotion that I couldn't understand. One of which is a deaf girl whom you cannot help but envy, for she doesn't have to bare the burden of the dull sonorific confusion. It seems Dwight Yoakams, who also directed this feature, main goal was to shoot and kill every actor who was more suited to his craft. Jealousy runs rampant among thespians.Read more ›
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