Down in the Valley (2005)
Whether it is a blessing or a curse that Edward Norton seemingly has chosen to go “back to his roots” in order to revive his slightly halted career will remain unsaid, but there’s no denying the parallel between his Harlan here and his debut-role in Primal Fear. And as with that role, the psychological aspects of Norton’s character is the most interesting asset in this film. There’s also a sweet and fairly genuine romance between Norton and Wood, a couple of family intrigues and a cat and mouse-sequence. It’s blended beyond realism, but not entirely beyond interest, and works quite well for a while.
Norton manages to make his character believable, and that is not a given with this Harlan, whose at times questionable (to say the least) motivation is quite simplifyingly justified. It's hard to argue that the film doesn't in the end disclose itself as mainly a psychological study (although it conceals itself as many potential things up until then), but although it has very interesting points in this respect, it's not completely coherent.
Still though, Down In the Valley also works on another level – a meta-level which is fun and amusing, if not always relevant. That is when writer/director David Jacobson has his fun, paralleling the western of his youth with the modern-day western terrains of the United States. And this gives film the extra bit of integrity that it might otherwise lack. Jacobson is ambitious, no doubt about it, and that ambition is illuminated by this interesting but by no means flawless film.