Westerns have almost completely disappeared from the world of film. But every so often one pops up and more often than not, it’s a welcome diversion. Written, directed and produced by Viggo Mortensen, who also stars --- and composed the gorgeous soundtrack --- THE DEAD DON’T HURT is a riveting specimen of this faded genre.


Vivienne Le Coudy (Vicki Krieps) is a flower vendor in San Francisco in the 1860s. She is totally uninterested in the robber baron who is trying to woo her. Instead, she is intrigued by a Danish immigrant, Holger Olsen (Mortensen), who whisks her away to his home near Elk Flats, Nevada. Upon their arrival, she is disappointed to find a small house in the middle of nowhere, with no

trees --- and certainly no flowers.


It matters not as they begin a life together with Vivienne setting up the household and prevailing upon Holger to do a lot of planting. When news of the Civil War reaches Elk Flats, Holger believes it is his patriotic duty to sign up to fight for the Union. Vivienne is decidedly not happy, but nothing she says convinces Holger to stay.


She gets a job at the saloon in town, which is owned by the most powerful rancher in the area, Alfred Jeffries (Garret Dillahunt), and the corrupt mayor, Rudolph Schiller (Danny Huston). Alfred happens to have a violent, unstable son, Weston (Solly McLeod), who fancies Vivienne. During Holger’s absence, he shows up at Vivienne’s home and attacks her.


The results of this heinous crime have long-term ramifications for Vivienne. And once Holger returns years later, the two of them must deal with the issues forced upon them both.


THE DEAD DON’T HURT is a marvelous depiction of a strong woman compelled to face an untenable situation through no fault of her own. It’s also a beautiful love story with Mortensen and Krieps showcasing the undeniable chemistry between these two very independent individuals. With Mortensen’s impeccable writing, his screenplay holds the audience’s attention at every turn.


But even with this exceptional script, the performances must be outstanding, as well. And they are. Mortensen possesses such a quiet sense of self on screen, and though he’s craggier than when he was young, he’s still every bit as handsome. It’s a joy to watch him work.


Krieps is perfectly cast. As Mortensen himself states, “She has a particular feminine beauty that seems to be from another time ---“. It’s difficult to imagine another actor bringing Vivienne to life. Krieps has an innate ability to project strength despite her almost fragile appearance. McLeod makes an exemplary villain, as does Huston, who plays the power-hungry mayor with a certain je ne sais quoi.


Filmed primarily on location in Durango, Mexico, Mortensen, along with his cinematographer, Marcel Zyskind, has captured the immense beauty of the various landscapes. THE DEAD DON’T HURT is an engrossing effort by Mortensen, his cast and crew, enhanced by the spellbinding music which accentuates this worthwhile moviegoing experience.


Opinion: Strong See It Now!





One of the movie industry’s most underrated talents --- at least in the public eye --- has his name all over a gripping, original tale of the Old West. Viggo Mortensen writes, directs, produces, stars --- and even composes the music for what has to be considered one of the best films of this year.


THE DEAD DON’T HURT is a deeply involving story of love, sacrifice, devotion and ultimately vengeance. The arc of the story flits back and forth quite a bit between the past and present, but one key to keeping it straight is Holger Olsen’s (Mortensen) facial hair --- strange as that may sound.


Holger meets Vivienne Le Coudy (Vicki Krieps), a flower seller in San Francisco and the two share an instant attraction. It helps that Vivienne has just had an unpleasant encounter with a man who wishes to wed her. So, Holger is a welcome breath of fresh air.


Their mutual liking of one another leads to a serious relationship that will be severely tested as time goes on. THE DEAD DON’T HURT takes place in the 1860s at the time of the Civil War and Holger, after much contemplation, decides to leave Vivienne and join the Union forces to fight against slavery. Their separation is lengthy and much occurs in the interim.


The movie is wonderfully written and acted. Mortensen, a triple Oscar nominee for lead actor (EASTERN PROMISES, GREEN BOOK, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC), demanded authenticity in this, his second directorial effort. Consequently, Viggo was very concerned about how people actually ride a horse, how they get on and off, the vernacular of their speech, and of course, how they look. The result is a compelling take on the West of over 150 years ago.


Of the supporting cast, perhaps Danny Huston is the only easily recognizable character, playing the corrupt Mayor Schiller of Elk Flats, Nevada. Most of the movie was shot in Durango, Mexico. THE DEAD DON’T HURT also features a true villain in Weston Jeffries (Solly McLeod), a thug movie audiences will quickly detest.


But it is Krieps’ Vivienne who is the centerpiece of this story. She is independent and assertive at a time when most women were not. Krieps’ performance is effective and captivating. Mortensen even gives her top billing. Not a bad way to gain the admiration of all your cast members.


Speaking of admiration, Mortensen is the type of Hollywood talent that is impossible not to like. He is heroic without being over the top, and his facial expressions have as much to say as his actual dialogue.


Do not be deterred by the fact that THE DEAD DON’T HURT is a western. It is not a guns-blazing tale, but instead a love story for adults who want impeccable realism in their films.


Opinion:  Strong See It Now!