★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
Redemption is a long, rough road. It may take less time for some, but it will always take a long time to redeem yourself. But once you do find redemption, you will feel at least close to normal again. However, some of us never reach that destination.
The Mustang, while a bit too familiar at times, is a powerfully-acted tale of redemption. The film follows Roman Coleman (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), a convict in the Nevada State Penitentiary. He has been in prison for 12 years for assault, & knowing full well that he has a violent temper & is prone to bursts of rage, does not want to be put back into society, despite the best efforts of the prison psychologist (played by Connie Britton). Roman's daughter Martha (played by Gideon Adlon), who is pregnant, has become ambivalent towards her father, & is not interested in mending their relationship.
While doing maintenance outside, Roman is met by Myles (played by Bruce Dern), a rancher. Myles places Roman in a rehabilitation program where he is to work with a mustang. These mustangs are trained for 5 weeks before they are sold at an auction. Roman struggles with training his horse, becoming violent towards it at times, but with the help of Henry (played by Jason Mitchell), an inmate who is also very experienced in horse training, Roman develops a companionship with the horse, who he names Marcus.
As Roman further develops his companionship with Marcus & forms a friendship with Henry, he tries to rediscover himself in the process. But the guilt of his crime may keep him imprisoned both literally & figuratively.
The cast is excellent. Matthias Schoenaerts is a force to be reckoned with. His acting prowess definitely shows in his loud, emotional moments, but it shows even more in quiet moments. Jason Mitchell, Bruce Dern & Gideon Adlon are terrific in their supporting roles. But Schoenaerts runs away with the film.
Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre's direction is amazing. de Clermont-Tonnerre goes for a very subdued approach to a prison drama, & it works very well, distinguishing it from other prison dramas that go for a more gritty approach.
And the screenplay by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Mona Fastvold & Brock Norman Brock is great. Although the plot is a bit too formulaic, the characters feel very human & the dialogue is very realistic.
This is a very good drama. Although the screenplay could've been better, its strong performances & subdued direction propels it to the finish line.
The Mustang was seen by me at The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. It is currently in 6 theaters in the Detroit area, including the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; the State Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI; & the Rave Flint West 14 in Flint, MI. Its runtime is 96 minutes, & it is rated R for language, some violence & drug content.