Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones, which has nothing to do with the anarchic Brit-com from the 1980s, revolves around a tussle over a robotic donkey, so it wins points for originality right from the start. The widescreen sci-fi western, the second feature from Boardwalk Empire director Paltrow, takes place in a parched outpost (South Africa doubles for the States). A squinty-eyed, mumbling Michael Shannon plays Ernest Holm, an alcoholic farmer-turned-bootlegger fiercely protective of his meager holdings. His kids, Mary (Elle Fanning) and Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee, the go-to guy for dystopian cinema), help him to run their homestead, an assemblage of corrugated shipping containers, with varying degrees of loyalty and hostility. Their beautiful mother (Paralympic athlete Aimee Mullins, Cremaster 3) lives in a rest home due to an accident that took her legs. When the family donkey suffers a fatal injury, the Holms upgrade to a robot, which falls into the hands of ne’er-do-well neighbor Flem (Nicholas Hoult of the piercing blue eyes), at which point the story moves in a noir direction. From Shannon to Hoult, it’s refreshing to see actors most recently associated with big-budget properties like Superman and X-Men get their hands dirty with this gritty little picture. recommended

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