A good western film requires a strong lead with a fast draw, a villain dressed in black, and plenty of horses. Film director Jeremy Heslup took this wholesome recipe and added a dash of spice to the mix in the form of a Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Heslup’s Valkyr Productions recently released a short film with a fuel injected twist on the classic western genre. The five-minute film takes you on a feature-length thrill ride with beautiful cinematography, minimal dialog, and Rolls-Royce stunt driving.
The Gunslinger (2022) Directed by Jeremy Heslup
The Gunslinger is a short film set in the late 1800s. It tells the story of a band of marauders seizing a small mining town in Montana. The gang of bad guys, led by a man in a black hat, quickly begin to grab anything of value, which includes a stockpile of gold coins stored in the town’s bank. While most of the town submits under threat of violence, one saloon girl named Isabel decides to take a stand and bear arms. She sends a message to a professional gunfighter asking for help before reaching for her lever-action rifle.
The protagonist is a gunman with a zero-tolerance policy for guns pointed in his direction. Upon receiving the letter from Isabel, he quickly sets off to help Isabel, who is confronting the man in the black hat by pointing her Henry rifle at his face. Amidst a standoff, the gunslinger makes an earth-quaking entrance riding a black badge V12-powered steel thoroughbred.
As the gang of heavies make their escape with the gold, the pair of unlikely heroes give chase with the aid of a leather-clad, 592 horse team stagecoach. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge steals the scene in a cloud of dust as it chases down the stampeding horseback bandits on dusty trails, photogenic hills, and across crystal clear rivers in the Montana wilderness. In these scenes, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan proves it’s more than a super land yacht by flexing its off-road prowess.
Why The Gunslinger is a Nugget of Cinematic Gold
The Gunslinger production hosted a series of firsts for Jeremy Heslup and Valkyr. It was the first time writing a western, working with animals, and filming a period piece. The accurate settings portrayed in the film are thanks to Yellowstone Film Ranch, located near Livingston, Montana. This unique venue caters to media projects looking for an old-west environment.
The quality of this short film is nothing short of professional. This is not a student film shot and edited on a smartphone. The production required period-correct costumes, props, and cinematography that rivals multi-million-dollar budgets. It’s important to note that Valkyr Productions filmed the entire movie in less than a week.
Watching the film, I noticed subtle cues that reminded me of some of the great western movies of the last century. For example, the lack of dialog and focus on facial expressions could be an homage to Sergio Leone’s trademark of using actors with distinctive faces to tell the story without saying a word.
The hero stagecoach storms onto the screen with all-wheel drive and a gleaming black chrome grille.
Heslup’s extensive experience in filming high-speed automotive content shows in how the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge comes across on the screen. As an automotive journalist, I’m amazed that Rolls-Royce loaned Jeremy a Black Badge Cullinan to kick up dirt in Montana for several days. Ask any automotive writer or influencer, and they’ll tell you that Rolls-Royce keeps a tight grip on their key fobs – as they should.
On a related side note, the concept of a modern vehicle chasing down cowboys in an old west setting is a captivating idea.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge Stagecoach
Arguably the star of the film is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. The hero stagecoach storms onto the screen with all-wheel drive and a gleaming black chrome grille. The Black Badge is a special variant in the Rolls-Royce lineup. Technically considered a performance package, the Black Badge bumps the Cullinan’s V12 brawn from 563 to 592 horsepower and updates the suspension to handle its increased power output.
More notably, the Black Badge drapes over the Cullinan’s trim in a shadow of black chrome that includes the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. The appearance side of its performance package is topped off with a set of 22-inch black chrome wheels, a Black Badge exclusive. The theme continues inside with Technical Carbon trim, unique trim options, and a bespoke Starlight headliner, which has a memorable cameo in the film.
The Western, a Classic that Never Gets Old
Historically, the days of the “wild west” had simmered down by 1890 to make way for the industrial revolution. However, it didn’t take long for people to start using the latest breakthroughs in technology to romanticize the American Frontier. In 1903, the first western film debuted, titled The Great Train Robbery, directed by Edwin S. Porter. Edison Manufacturing Company produced the film. Yes, Edison, as in Thomas Edison. Since then, the number of western movies and TV programs ranges in the hundreds, with a select few standing out as all-time classics.
Few film and TV genres are as heavily romanticized as westerns. Even during the time, stories were often exaggerated or sensationalized for entertainment. Fast forward to the atomic age, and people across America tuned in every week to watch episodes of cowboy shows like Bonanza, The Rifleman, Maverick, Gunsmoke, and modern interpretations of westerns like Justified and The Mandalorian. Even by today’s media-saturated standards, all these old-timey western shows can easily fall into the binge-worthy category. The morals, writing, and action still hold up.
Even by today’s media-saturated standards, all these old-timey western shows can easily fall into the binge-worthy category. The morals, writing, and action still hold up.
Like sci-fi and cheesy action movies, westerns are embedded in the foundation of pop culture. People who have never seen the iconic western The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) can recognize Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack from the film. We still use the term “cowboy” to refer to someone who’s tough and does things their way. The western as a genre is classic that never gets old because the era offers everything we come to expect from darn good television: violence pitting good against evil, a moral code, a connection to the past, and colorful characters.
Originality Over Nostalgia
As a fan of both film and cars, I commend Jeremy Heslup and everyone involved in producing The Gunslinger. In an era where Hollywood is leaning heavily on politically influenced flashy nostalgia over originality, it’s refreshing to see independent filmmakers like Heslup being able to produce quality work without a blank check from a streaming service. However, I know he wouldn’t mind having that as a resource on his project. But to justify a new project, he needs support where it matters most, viewership.
Every artist needs an audience. So, if reading this article has managed to tickle your curiosity, click the link and watch Jeremy Heslups’ short film The Gunslinger on YouTube.