The PREAMBLE BIT……
It was back in November 2018 when 5D had the very good fortune to speak with writer/ director and all-round good guy Harry Locke. We talked about the release of his first feature film, the excellent action-adventure flick ‘City of Gold’ which features movie icons Vernon Wells & Branscombe Richmond. If all that wasn’t enough, we also chatted about Harry’s stunning proof of concept short film ‘Hellblazer’ (2013) featuring the iconic DC character, John Constantine. Yes, you could safely say that our conversation shared a love for all things geeky! If you want to see the conversation for your self then just go to the 5D YouTube channel RIGHT HERE.
So you can imagine my delight when Harry contacted me this week about his latest project – a proof of concept Western/thriller called The Redeemer. Would I like to know more about the project he asked…yes I would. Would I like to see not just the trailer but the complete 23 mins of the film itself? Yes, definitely! You know me, I get excited rather easily.
So before we go any further, let me throw a brief synopsis your way……
THE SYNOPSIS BIT…….
A newly minted deputy and a vengeful widow seek justice against the malevolent outlaw that left them for dead, in this dark re-imagination of The Lone Ranger mythos.
Born in a den of thieves and adopted into a family of lawmen, Jackson matures into a man who has become exceptionally adept in masking his troubled past. Now bestowed with the dubious honor of bringing reviled outlaws to justice as a U.S. Deputy, Jackson will forge an alliance with unlikely forces to redeem the sins of his bloodline
THE REVIEW BIT………
To begin with, the film looks wonderful, taking full advantage of the 40 acre ranch it was shot on The film was shot on in Sonora, California, which is about 45 minutes east of Yosemite. Harry has done what any good self respecting director should do, that is surround himself with the best talent available – for example, Matthew Halla, the film’s Director of Photography, is a 3x Emmy award winning cinematographer.
Some of the shots throughout are quite simply breathtaking, none more so than one of the opening scenes taking place near a tree on a distant hill with a rather tasty electric storm brewing in the background. I have it on good authority from Harry himself that at the time he was so worried about this scene because they were losing light very quickly. As a matter of fact, once they had finished it, Harry thought we were going to have to re-shoot it another day. It turns out, he had no need to worry – the scene is beautiful.
I must admit that as a kid here in the UK I loved the mythos of The Lone Ranger story, particularly the tv series that ran to the the end of the 1950’s (Go on admit it, you’re all humming the theme tune now aren’t you??!!). However it was until my adult years that I realised that the TV series I remember was problematic in a number of ways, in part due to the frequent casting of native Americans by nearly anyone and everyone except, well, Native Americans. In addition there was the problematic relationship dynamic of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, in other words the subservient native supporting the white saviour of the story. And let’s not even get started on how women have been historically portrayed within this genre.
So it was pleasing to see that in The Redeemer some of the ‘traditional’ aspects of not only the Western storytelling, but specifically the story of The Lone Ranger, by turning not only the racial and gender dynamics but also what it really means to be good. In essence moving the story away from the protagonist being a wholesome hero to a complex and flawed character.
The acting from the three main characters is consistently strong with Robbie Allen, long time associate of Harry Locke playing the role of Jackson Bulloc. Robbie is excellent as the individual trying to be good, not because I necessarily he wants to be good, but because he thinks he should and could be. Bronagh, played wonderfully by actress Stefanie Estes, is Jackson’s biological sister and I have to say that Stefanie seems to have the time of her life in delightfully chewing up her scenes with some stirring dialogue. And as for the role of the ‘Lone Rangers’ partner Shiah Luna as Moon is simply stunning, a true revelation and delight as a complex and perfect warrior foil for Jackson.
Mention needs also to be made to the soundtrack – again, just lovely with it’s mix of folky western connotations whilst never falling into the genre cliché and staying about as far away from home on the range as is possible. I sincerely hope that this proof of concept becomes the feature length movie that it deserves to be .
THE TRAILER BIT …..
In the meantime, you can see the TRAILER for The Redeemer RIGHT HERE.
Harry Locke was kind enough to take time out of his very bus current schedule to provide us with tasty insights to the movie…..
THE QUESTION AND ANSWER BIT…….
Q) Tell us a little about the background of The Redeemer.
The Redeemer originally began development as a Lone Ranger fan-film the summer of 2018 between actor Robbie Allen and I ahead of the release of The CIty of Gold, my feature-length directorial debut which he also starred in. Robbie is a huge fan of The Lone Ranger, and doing a darker interpretation of the story is something we’ve discussed since Hellblazer, our first film together in 2013 which happened to be a John Constantine fan film.
Over the process of writing the script, however, the story quickly evolved into something that stood on its own and worked independently of the pre-established lore of The Lone Ranger franchise.
Q) Why the subject of The Lone Ranger?
I began toying with perverting the character’s background. John Reid, the real name of The Lone Ranger, is often portrayed as a 100% do-gooder who is out to catch the bad guys and avenge his family. But I wanted to complicate things for him in our version, and ask: What if the bad guys were his family? What if villainy was in his blood and the duties of being a lawman was only something he adopted? How would he go about redeeming the sins of his pedigree? Thus, John Reid became Jackson Bullock in our story, and the project was re-titled as The Redeemer.
One of the focal points I wanted to establish with The Redeemer, and in a sense “redeem” from the ways of the original Lone Ranger property, was to reinvent the character of Tonto, who has often been seen as a punchline or controversial figure in the franchise. To right these wrongs, it was imperative to me that we casted a truly indigenous talent for the role, and give the character a mission/objective/life that was independent and unique. In conversations with Fama, we also became excited with the idea of changing Tonto from his usual stoic-male persona, into a much more vivid and animated female warioress that embodied the proud nature of the Comanche people.
Finding truly indigenous talent that fit the role was one of the most difficult parts of the casting process during the film, but once we found actress Shiah Luna, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief in knowing that we found someone who would really bring this re-envisioned character, Moon, to life. A similar process also befell our transformation of traditional Lone Ranger antagonist, Butch Cavendish, into Bronagh Bullock. While Butch has always been more of a classic villian in the sense of the word, Bronagh, played wonderfully by actress Stefanie Estes, is Jackson’s biological sister and proves to be a very complex antagonist.
Q) The strong female cast are genuinely excellent – tell us more about them.
The energy and dynamic that both Stefanie and Shiah bring to the movie, makes a wonderful case to show that diversity in film roles is not just about gender or race swapping characters and calling it a day. It’s also about introducing the diversity of thought, and how the creation of opposing views can vastly improve the creative strength of a projective.
This was another one of The Redeemer’s mission objectives during development, and it is one I hope most audiences will say we succeeded at.
Q) What was the thinking about producing The Redeemer as a proof of concept and what are the plans for its development?
The switch up from fan-fiction to a wholly new original property gave me a plethora of ideas to work with, and I quickly realized that I would love to turn the world of this film into a feature-length adventure. I teamed up with my producer/actress wife, Fama Locke, to immediately begin seeking funding to produce this short form version, which we could then use to help promote the development of the feature version.
Fama and I brought attention of the project to our longtime friend and collaborator, Alain Azoulay, who had recently begun building film production relations with investors from China looking to invest in independent productions. Based off the success of The City of Gold and the strength of The Redeemer’s script, Alain was able to broker financial investment into the proof of concept, and we were off to the races in getting the film completed during the fall of 2018.
Q) Apart from the striking visuals of The Redeemer, another aspect of the film is the lovely and emotive soundtrack – what can you tell us about this?
Music is scored by Billy Jupp, who along with our sound designer (Martin Chappell) and VFX artist (Ak Roy), all worked on the film internationally. Billy and Martin both are from the UK and Ak lives in Mumbai. We have never met face-to-face, everything was done remotely via the site Upwork. Billy recently completed the score for a feature film called The Flood which stars Game of Thrones alums Lena Headey and Iain Glen.
Q) Where and when will The Redeemer premiere?
The Redeemer will premiere October 25, 2019 in Los Angeles as an official selection of the 2019 Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival. Tickets are available for purchase through their website – https://www.dtlaff.com/film/the-redeemer/104/
You can find out more about the film and the creative team behind it on the film’s Facebook page RIGHT HERE
The official website for The Redeemer is RIGHT HERE.