Bad Blood: The Hatfields and McCoys


That’s One Ugly Feud

Main Cast: Christian Slater, Jeff Fahey, Perry King

Director: Fred Olen Ray

Sometimes you get a bad feeling during the first scene of a movie.  Maybe it’s too graphic for you, or the music is all wrong, or the credits are giving you a headache.  I’ve learned over the years to move past most of those feelings – a lot of times they go away if I give the movie a little time.  But sometimes that bad feeling just gets worse, and worse and worse.  Welcome to the fresh hell that is Bad Blood: The Hatfields and McCoys.

Please do not mistake this movie for the Kevin Costner mini-series – that would be a gross injustice to both Costner and the medium of the mini-series…and to the Hatfields and McCoys and all their descendants.  This version is a 2012 movie starring Christian Slater that, honestly, is the most amateurish and disappointing thing I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Bad Blood: The Hatfields and McCoys has Slater playing the governor of Kentucky.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m going to stop here and note that it has him playing that role with stubble worthy of Miami Vice in its glory days.  Hello, anachronism.  Anyway, my misgivings began to rumble during the very first scene in which a McCoy is fighting in a Civil War skirmish that leaves everyone else dead.  He is a Union soldier, left to make his way home after the bloody battle.

That battle may be the most poorly staged and executed battle scene I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch.  People shooting guns into the air, men awkwardly pushing at one another as though they really just want to wrestle, no real blood being drawn, yet we cut to everyone dead on the ground.  I think it’s possible that they were bored to death.  That old bad feeling was running strong.

But things had to get better, right?  There was a McCoy in that battle – a good, upstanding young man.  It was time to learn about the feud and get to the meat of this story, a legendary story if there ever was one.  Sadly, we only get the very thinnest slice of a story here – perhaps the top 1/8 on an inch of story from a 50 foot deep well of myth, legend and history.  Essentially the Hatfields and McCoys just shoot each other’s sons for an hour and a half while patriarchs Anderson Hatfield (Jeff Fahey, who must have had a balloon payment coming up on his mortgage or something) and Randall McCoy (Perry King – anybody remember him?) do deep thinking about which members of the other family they should kill next.  Meanwhile, the governor looks concerned and sends a guy out to fix the situation lest the military step in and take over.

Supposedly based on a true story, I’m sure that Bad Blood: The Hatfields and McCoys does contain a few factoids about the actual feud – things like the names of those involved maybe.  The rest is so shallow that it could be any story of any Civil War family squabble, with its requisite Romeo and Juliet sub-plot, of course.

What makes this movie so tremendously awful – almost so bad it’s good, but only almost – is that the script is paper thin, the acting stilted and wooden, the special effects laughable and the period setting cheap and unconvincing.  The whole thing could have been filmed at Old World Wisconsin or any other Olde Tyme Village – hell, maybe it was.  There’s also the small matters of a loud, ridiculous score that seems to have been performed by a middle school band and the basic production qualities of bad 1970s TV movies (I think I could have figured out which house was the Governor’s Mansion without a New Times Roman fonted intertitle – in white – letting me know).  Old episodes of Little House on the Prairie look like cinematic masterpieces in comparison.

The acting is uniformly horrible – from the watery-eyed King to every single son and nephew and wife and daughter from either family.  Slater just embarrasses himself with his overwrought Posture of Concern and pronouncements of How Things Will Be.  Only Fahey manages to inject a tiny amount of subtlety into his portrayal of Anderson Hatfield.  What a waste – surrounded as he was by 100% garbage, his performance is like spotting a wee gold nugget in a cow pie.  It just isn’t worth sifting through the crap for the tiny reward.

Please avoid this train wreck.  I’m looking out for your well being here.  If you can see Bad Blood: The Hatfields and McCoys for free, with liquor and friends who have twisted senses of humor and can manage to turn it into a drinking game, well, have at it.  Everyone else, please find something better to watch.  Like some vintage Little House on the Prairie.  Pa Ingalls would want that for you.

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