The Murder of Hi Good film review

★★★

Directed by: #LeeLynch

Written by: #LeeLynch, #DougHarvey

Starring: #DavidNordstrom, #CoryZacharia, #AlBringas, #EricHHeisner, #JamesGibbons, #EliasJimenes, #EvanEnos

Film Review by: Darren Tilby



Based on historical events, this true crime, drug-fuelled western details the last days of California's most notorious Indian hunter, Hiram Good (David Nordstrom). A man's whose infamous cruelty toward native American people resulted in his untimely death at the hands of his manservant, Indian Ned (Cory Zacharia).


As far as historical documentaries go, this is an interesting one. Part documentary and part reenactment, The Murder of Hi Good is of unique construction. The documentary side of the film consists of interview footage with local historian, Richard Burrill and Native American Maidu, Jeremy Peconom. Lynch's method here is incredibly simple, but effective, also. We examine historical documents and relics – perhaps even bones – related to the story in an attempt to understand better the events surrounding Hood's murder - an aspect of the film I thoroughly enjoyed.


The reenactment side of the film, though, is a bit of a mixed bag. Performances are a peculiar amalgamation of accomplished lead performances – notably from Nordstrom, Zacharia and Jimenes – being undercut by the amateur dramatics level competence of some of the supporting cast. The scriptwriting, however, is perfectly fine, and real effort has been made to ensure dialect and accent is as accurate as possible.


The Murder of Hi Good is shot on 35mm, 16mm, Super 8mm and Mini DV, ably drawing parallels to the western pedigree to which it pays homage. It's a solid design choice, one that adds a lot of flavour to the film and seems wholly appropriate for the film's setting. There's just something about seeing the American frontier shot in 35mm that's timelessly beautiful. Unfortunately, the cinematography does, at times, feel a little rigid, stilted, even, and it tends to shine a little too much light on the movie's already poor production design.


But perhaps more than that, I really can't get my head around what the point of the movie is. It may just be something as simple as wanting to shine a light on a small chapter of California's short but bloody history. It's undoubtedly a fascinating story, one from which I feel I've learned quite a lot. The issue comes from the mood of the piece: one minute it seems that Good's situation is a tragic affair; one deserving of pity, the next minute, we see him for the monster he was. This back and forth continues throughout much of the film's 70-minutes runtime and is occasionally a little disengaging.


Lynch and Harvey's probing, true crime revisionist piece has an interesting premise built upon an even more exciting story. And while The Murder of Hi Good suffers from its share of issues, it reveals much about the founding of the United States and the implications of this for the native American people. I would heartily recommend this for anyone with an interest in US history.