They gave Benedict Cumberbatch props for accepting a darker, more challenging role — in his latest movie, “The Power of the Dog.”
For a man known for the twinkly, boyish grin, he turned grumpy, agitated and sullen as police detective Ford Hood in the film, written by Adam Leopold and directed by Philip Martin, both based on Leopold’s novel. “He left me no choice but to reject the previous casting offer,” Cumberbatch told the New York Times’ Emily Yoshida in an interview for Leopold’s book “In a Heartbeat.”
Set in the 1880s, the movie focuses on Detective Hood, who investigates a killing that its director calls “the anti-Buffalo Bill,” a description that suggests a vigorous man-of-many-trades-in-almost-a-stolen-dream story.
Here are five reasons why you should see the film, which hits theaters on Friday:
It’s loosely based on a story
Martin originally went to the money-laundering enclave of Mesa in Colorado with Leopold to research a story he was writing about people who put the edge on the American frontier. At a dinner party, Leopold brought up the story of the lynching that took place at the Red Rock Ranch in Denver in 1872, bringing them back to their national roots: “It is about the famous 10th Infantry and a woman named Theodora Williams,” Martin said. “And it just exploded.”
It’s also thinly disguised
With its character-based story, the movie is almost a streamlined remake of the classic Western “The Searchers,” a tragedy starring John Wayne, right? A scant 40 minutes into the movie, after Hood has shot a few people, the screen goes black. Leopold and Martin told the Daily Beast that if they had known how the movie would turn out, they would have trimmed some of the more “vanilla” parts.
When Aron Zalewski, a film critic for Cinema Blend, wrote an essay for the Daily Beast praising the movie, he noted the movie’s some of its “lo-fi deep-frying moments.” But he also said, “’The Power of the Dog’ is most refreshing when it lets its ear for the script depart from more formulaic filmmaking.”
The movie’s contemporary topics of police corruption, the opening of a whole new front in the ongoing gun debate and long-standing questions of how we properly designate perpetrators of domestic violence — all themes that are freighted with meaning at a time when Washington is the political battlefield.