The Ballad of Lefty Brown Review
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Westerns often tell the stories of strong, capable men who face adversity with both grit and a loaded rifle. But in The Ballad of Lefty Brown, it’s the bumbling (and aging) sidekick who’s forced to step up and answer the call to become an unlikely hero.

The Ballad of Lefty Brown is set in the frontiers of Montana in 1889. Edward Johnson (Peter Fonda) has just been elected to the Senate, and he’s leaving his partner for the last 40 years, Lefty Brown (Bill Pullman), in charge of his ranch. No one thinks that Lefty is qualified for the job. Even Lefty himself has his doubts. But Edward is shot and killed before Lefty gets a chance to prove himself—and, fueled by his loyalty to his friend and his desperation to avenge his death, Lefty sets out in search of Edward’s killer.

Lefty Brown is the kind of character that rarely gets more than a few lines in the average Western. He’s the bumbling tagalong—the guy who’s usually just good for a few carefully-timed comic one-liners to lighten up the tone from time to time. When it really comes down to it, he’s a nobody—the sidekick who isn’t important enough to get a single mention in the stories told about his more heroic partner. But that’s what makes The Ballad of Lefty Brown delightfully different. This isn’t just another tale of heroism on the frontier; it’s the story of a guy who’s been overlooked his entire life—a guy who’s gotten by on someone else’s accomplishments—who suddenly finds himself with no one to rely on. And it’s then, at the ripe old age of “sixty and some odd years” that he finally steps up and takes charge of his actions.

Admittedly, Pullman’s performance does take some getting used to. Lefty is a crusty old coot—and he often comes off as more than a little bit crazy. But the more time you spend with this lovably bumbling underdog, the more you’ll appreciate him. He’s loyal and kind-hearted—and as he tells some of his own stories, it turns out that he’s had some exciting (and heroic) adventures of his own. Unfortunately, Pullman’s performance is paired with some awkward supporting performances—but he certainly stands out as the unexpected hero of this unconventional Western.

Of course, if you generally find Westerns to be too slow for your taste, The Ballad of Lefty Brown won’t change your mind. In style, it’s a typical Western—but, in story, it offers an interesting twist, resulting in a quiet but beautiful Wild West character study.

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