Wednesday, March 21, 2012


West Virginia, 1920. Coal miners and a union organizer have to fight the Mining Company. Written and directed by John Sayles.

The film is based on real events, the socalled Matewan Massacre. The Depression hasn't even started yet, but things are already pretty rough. There are actors that later will be better known, so watching the film you constantly go, Hey, there's that guy from NYPD Blue, there's that guy from Shawshank Redemption. Hey, it's that woman from Dances With Wolves. There's the Sayles regulars Chris Cooper and David Strathairn. There's even Darth Vader and Bonnie Prince Billy! Will Oldham is actually pretty good in his role as a young preacher. The film is almost a Western in the way it opens with a stranger arriving in town and ending with a big shootout. Unfortunately, it came out before the independent film boom of the nineties. If released a couple of years later, by, say, Miramax, it could maybe have been nominated for an Oscar for best film. It would have been well deserved.


  1. There's so much I love about this movie... Kevin Tighe is an interesting heavy, like when he tells how he got a medal in war war one for being good at killing people.

    Also the scene by the bonfire, with Few Clothes packing a gun to kill the hero, and feeling miserable about it. First you don't really think he'll be able to do it. But then he mentions he fought in Cuba, San Juan Hill and all that jazz... It's a great moment of suspense.

    That's a very good point about Miramax and the quality indies. Harvey Weinstein could easily have done his magic with this one.

  2. Matewan is one of the best films of the 80s. And so completely different from most of the films from that decade!
    Yes, love that sermon / bonfire sequence.

    Miller's Crossing by the Coen Brothers is another film that came out just a bit too early. It's just as good as Fargo or No Country For Old Men, that both were nominated for best film, No Country finally winning.

  3. I agree that this movie is incredibly underrated. I have to admit that I'm biased being from the state, but I wish the movie got more recognition since West Virginia still has enormous labor struggles with coal companies to this day.

    To see my favorite cartoonist talk highly of this film, though, will never get old.

    And although I've already passed this recommendation along, Hazel Dickens will always be my favorite treasure from the film: