TUCSON, Ariz. — "Murder at Yellowstone City" tries to hang its hat on a murder mystery, but there's not enough suspense to the twist to make this horse go.
The thin story is just an excuse for a sequence of throwback Western action sequences, such as shootouts, hurried horse rides, and tavern-storming.
After a prospector who just struck gold is killed, snarling Sheriff James Ambrose (Gabriel Byrne) wants to make the case go away by pinning the blame on Cicero (Isaiah Mustafa), a formerly enslaved person who has settled in the Montana boomtown.
At odds with the plan are minister Thaddeus Murphy (Thomas Jane) and his steadfast wife, Alice (Anna Camp), who seek to find the natural killer and clear Cicero's name. Prejudice, expedience, and greed stand in their way.
As for the audience, a slow-rolling plot is the biggest adversary.
Director Richard Gray takes the calm, confident approach but could have used more urgency to get from one drawn-out fight scene to the next. This is a throwback movie that seems as though it was yanked straight out of the 1960s. To appreciate its finer points, you'll need a heck of a lot of appreciation and patience for the era and the material.
The biggest shame is that such a capable cast goes to waste. Richard Dreyfuss and Aimee Garcia are excellent in supporting roles, but their characters aren't given enough heft.
Straightforward, lackadaisical, and dull, "Murder at Yellowstone City" is a sign of why movies like this aren't made much anymore. Its time has passed, and like the setting itself, the boomtown is heading toward ghost town status.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.
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