The Michael Fassbender-starring Western Slow West is in the IFI from Friday June 26. Harry Guerin saddles up and enjoys the ride. 

Most film fans reckon there just aren't enough new movies made in their favourite genre(s), but it's Western nuts who really have the most to complain about - they're really lucky if they get more than one a year. So far this year they've had The Salvation, and their second reward of 2015 - the US gets Tarantino's The Hateful Eight on December 25, we must wait until January - is the trippy and touching Slow West, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year and a great example of the small story, done well.

Our hero is Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee - the kid from The Road), a naïf who comes "from the cold shoulder of Scotland to the baking heart of America" in search of his true love, Rose (Caren Pistorius). Knowing as much about survival as he does about women, Jay is a murder waiting to happen, so out of his depth that he even brought half the family heirlooms in one of his suitcases.

Into his wide-eyed world comes Silas (Fassbender), a worn-out gun-for-hire who takes Jay under his wing (for a price, naturally) and agrees to bring him to Rose. But, for good and bad, Silas isn't all he seems, and as man and boy saddle up you get the feeling that they may reach their final destination long before journey's end.

Executive produced by Fassbender, this story of an odd couple out in the middle of nowhere mixes humour, pathos and the bizarre to create a quest where you're unsure about what's going to happen next. Oh, and don't worry - it's not arty enough to neglect the six-gun action. 

In writer-director John Maclean's debut feature (he worked with Fassbender on two shorts) survival is down just as much to dumb luck as past lessons learned, with wonderful chemistry between Smit-McPhee as the "jackrabbit in the den of wolves" and Fassbender as the cigarillo-chewing cut-throat trying unsuccessfully to run from what he left back down the trail. His character's banter with his young employer is great ("There's more to living than survival. Yeah, there's dying.")  and, as in life so on screen, there's something so rewarding about watching a hard man yield to his own sense of humanity.

Don't allow the title to fool you: there are no problems with pacing here. The clothes may look a little too new for down and dirty 1870, but in every other area Slow West is full of old school satisfaction.

4/5