Of all the genres, fans of westerns get one of the rawest deals with a film or two a year - 'The Missing', 'Open Range', 'The Alamo', 'The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada', 'The Proposition' in the last five - if they're lucky. This year's offering is 'Seraphim Falls', a well-worked hunter-and-the-hunted story which gives Brosnan and Neeson two unusual roles.

Set after the American Civil War, the film opens with Gideon (Brosnan) making his way through the Rockies. While preparing something to eat he's shot at by Carver (Neeson) and his men. Wounded in the arm, Gideon's frantic bid to escape takes him down mountainsides, through freezing cold waters and finally to a quiet spot where he can take the bullet out of his arm - all with Carver & Co not far behind. But why is Carver after Gideon? And whose side should we be on?

With lines like "Son, nobody can protect nobody in this world. The sooner you realise that the better" and "Only the dead can know the end of war, Captain", 'Seraphim Falls' doesn't deal in conventional heroes or noble deeds, but is no less rewarding without them.

Making his feature directing debut, director and co-writer David Von Ancken reveals himself to be a filmmaker with a strong sense of the themes and dynamics of the western, who manages to combine taut action scenes, an anti-war message and some surreal touches into a story of  two very troubled central characters shackled to a shared past.

A veteran of such TV series as 'CSI: NY', 'Without a Trace' and 'The Shield', Von Ancken gives Brosnan and Neeson a strong script to work with and the two Irish acting heavyweights respond by roughing it in the wilderness with suitable gusto.

Playing the most dead-eyed character of his career, Brosnan gives one of his most memorable performances as Gideon, a man you know is capable of doing very bad things but whom you still identify with as he tries to evade capture. Neeson is also cast against type as the pursuer who is destroying himself in his bid to destroy Gideon, and throughout you'll be convinced that he should try darker roles more often.

While the twist and the ending feel somewhat rushed, 'Seraphim Falls' will ease western fans' pangs for a while.

Harry Guerin